‘Democracy’ is much more than a 9 letter English word. It means a lot to citizens of many countries. Many countries don’t have the system in place allowing individuals to chose their leaders but for those who do, it is a wonderful experience. General election in India 2019, the biggest in the history of the planet, concluded last month. Held in 7 phases over a month, more than 900 million people were eligible to vote and chose representatives for the lower house (LokSabha) of Indian Parliament.
Why I am telling you all of these facts which are easily available in the public domain? Because, this was the first time, I got the chance to participate in the democratic process of electing my representatives. Despite being eligible for voting for a long time, logistical hurdles prevented my participation until this time.
Since election results came out on 23rd May 2019, everything is now part of the history. However, I do like to highlight a few things I have observed about this election.
Around 67% of electoral participated in this general election. It is highest % turnout in any General election in the history of India. This happened despite some states were witnessing high peak summer temperature. Kudos to everyone who came out and honored their basic right as citizen and pity on those who chose not to step out of their homes. What’s more interesting is the increasing participation of female voters in this election. Following figures suggest over 600 million voters voted in 2019 General election and half of them are women.
Number of eligible voters: 908722153
Number of total votes: 613136854
Male voters: 316792980
Female voters: 294035406
(Figures released by the election commission of India)
Impact of improved internet access:
General election in 2014 saw extensive use of Social media for the very first time. Fast forward in 2019, the internet has emerged as one of the most sought tools of voter engagements. I refrain from using the word ‘Social Media’ because improved accessibility of internet allowed more and more voters to consume information in their medium. How?
Gone were the days, when people glued to their television set to get a glimpse of any political rallies. For the first time in this election, people watched them live on their phones from the comfort of their homes. Unlike the political discussions felicitated by traditional media in the past, voters themselves got information in their hand and engaged in well-informed discussions. Impact of incidents happening across the world has also impacted Indian voters who now have access to unlimited information just like their counterparts in the developed countries.
As observed in other parts of the world, social media in India is also used to spread misinformation from time to time. It is one of the challenges and I hope a solution will be worked out in the future.
Global Media Coverage:
Somehow this has also found a place in this election. Rise of India’s standing in the global sphere was instrumental in increased coverage of the general election by several non-Indian media outlets. Improved internet access opened up many such outlets to an average Indian. Some of these coverage generated controversies for being one-sided or written by authors who seemed clueless about India in general. The accusation against media for being biased is a global phenomenon and this election coverage was certainly not a new case.
Though this time they have found places in the Smartphones of the majority of voters and triggered a lot of backlash for being written by people who were not there on the ground covering elections but instead sitting in places far away from India. Whether it is right or wrong is an individual perspective, though I did find some of the reporting ways off the mark. An individual’s opinion cannot be compared to voters choice. Hope, future coverages will be done by individuals who are present in the ground to gauge the reality of the situation rather than written by an expert who is simply penning down his/her imagination.
A lot has been written on Indian general elections 2019 in all different languages. However, I just thought of giving my personal 2 cents of the observation.
(Views expressed here are personal)