Elections are not novel to Indians. Since Independence, we have been witnessing some or the other level of elections. Still 2014 General elections stood out to be different and therefore new. One of the most prominent indicators of this novelty is higher voter turnout. Despite all odds, Indian voters responded positively to the democratic appeal by queuing up in large numbers outside polling booths. Some had to fight for their voting rights, while some had to surrender to the political manipulation and bureaucratic mismanagement of electoral rolls. Still, on an average voting percentage has gone up by around 10 per cent. Till the 8th round, in 502 seats that are polled, the total voter turnout was 66.27 per cent against 57.74 per cent in those seats in 2009, which is higher than the previous record of 64 per cent in 1984 elections. The rationale for higher voter turnout and its possible outcome are diverse.
In a democracy, voting is a fundamental duty, not just right. Election Commission and many socio-cultural organisations, including the RSS, took special efforts to ensure maximum polling for the Lok Sabha elections. Another important reason is the changed demography of India, consisting of more than 30 per cent young voters, aging from 18 to 30. They not only have high aspirations in life, but are emotive towards social and national issues.
Individual and national security is another concern which is bringing voters to the booths. Crimes against women have increased and India as a nation is bullied by small neighbours and superpowers. India is viewed only as a market place. A weak government at the centre could not address these concerns, diplomatically or otherwise, in international fora.
After 1984, this was the first election that is turned out to be national in character. 1989 onwards, regardless of the Ayodhya Movement or Kargil War, most of the elections were fought on regional planks. Though regional dynamics still holds true, issues of corruption and good governance have brought the whole nation together. Inflation, lack of quality education, diminishing agrarian economy, uncontrolled migration of people from villages to cities, and absence of basic infrastructure, are some of the commonly recognised problems of the nation. These issues have touched a national cord after a long time.
Declaration of Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate by BJP and scrupulous execution of poll strategy, has successfully connected the proposed leadership model to every corner of the nation. From J&K to Tamil Nadu and Gujarat to Northeast, Modi not only travelled over 3 lakh kms for his more than 450 public meetings in 25 states, he has successfully interwoven national issues with the local ones.
Political pundits have different interpretations of this phenomenon. Higher voter turnout is conventionally considered as an indication of anti-incumbency against the existing government. It is true that in a multiparty polity like India, it is more of chemistry than arithmetic that determines the outcome. Still, if the above mentioned reasons of higher voter turnout comes to be true, then it is more for ‘change’ and ‘hope’ rather than ‘status-quo’. Simply because, ‘India deserves better’.
-Prafulla Ketkar, Editor