Voting during the Indian elections lasts an exhaustive six weeks, but election fever was already in the air — and online — long before polls opened on April 7. In what’s widely being hailed as India’s first social media election, regular news reports and commentaries were joined by a number of websites and online parodies that popped up to poke fun at the elections.
Who is India’s average political candidate? It may not be who you think
With 545 seats up for grabs in India’s lower house of parliament the Lok Sabha, lots of different characters end up running in the elections (as we mentioned before in our field guide to the Indian elections, India’s current election is really a series of 545 individual contests). During this year’s vote, for example, much media attention has focused on how more than 1,200 candidates hold criminal charges. India’s business elite — the “armchair critics,” as one such professional called herself — are also now entering politics and challenging the status quo of contenders.
And let’s not forget the big three capturing national and international spotlight: Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rahul Gandhi of the National Congress Party, and Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party are all running for seats in parliament, although the media tend to focus on their respective candidacies for prime minister.
But a recent analysis from The Hindu, one of India’s leading English newspapers, shows that the average candidate seeking election doesn’t quite fit any of these profiles. As Omar Rashid and Rukmini S. write, the standard candidate could very well be “a mild-mannered social activist from Lucknow” (Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state).
Among the characteristics they identified of the typical candidate:
- around 45 years old
- identifies as an independent
- has access to higher education
- has no criminal record
- is not poor
- works in agriculture, social service, or business
- is from Uttar Pradesh
- bears the last name “Singh”
The Hindu has a full profile of the “common Indian electoral candidate” here.
This piece was originally published on May 13, 2013, on Link TV’s World News website.
Coalition equation: Modi’s BJP forecast to take most seats, but can he persaude others to join him in government?
To win an Indian election, a political party must win a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha. Since there are 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, this majority would amount to at least 272 seats.
Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s candidate for prime minister, is the current frontrunner in the Indian elections and is widely believed to be the country’s next leader. The ultimate success of the “Modi wave” rippling through India, however, depends on this arithmetic equation within the Lok Sabha. “Most polls have shown Modi’s BJP winning the largest number of seats while falling short of the 272 needed for a majority when election results are announced May 16,” Bibhudatta Pradhan writes in Bloomberg.
To actually become the country’s next prime minister, Modi must band together with other political parties willing to offer him support so he can control the number of seats he needs to succeed. Continue reading
Modi’s selfie oopsie: Could a mistimed tweet change the course of India’s election?
Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s candidate for prime minister, caused a stir on Wednesday when he delivered a political speech and snapped a selfie of himself holding up a cutout of a lotus flower with his ink-stained finger after voting in his home state of Gujarat. The lotus flower is the party symbol of the BJP.
The problem is that what he did is against the rules of India’s Election Commission, the federal authority that monitors electoral processes in the country. Continue reading
Rajnath Singh’s bid to woo the Brahmins of Lucknow
On the night of 23 April, over dinner at a friend’s place in Lucknow, I was invited by Anshuman Dwivedi, a teacher at a local coaching institute, to attend a gathering at Kudia Ghat in Old Lucknow. The aim, Dwivedi said, was to pledge to protect the Gomti, the river that bisects the city.
But Dwivedi, who was the event’s main organiser, soon admitted that the meeting had another, hidden motive. “We’ve invited Rajnath Singh,” he said. He paused, presumably to allow the words to sink in. “We can’t put it because of the Model Code of Conduct that it’s a gathering by caste. But it’s basically a gathering of Brahmins.”
The Politics of Gift Giving in India
Sitting in a hot classroom at Lucknow University, Ankita Singh, 19, turned on a laptop and signed in. As she waited for the desktop to load, the screen flashed red. It lasted for all of two seconds, but the two faces that appeared on the screen were unmistakable: Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is the Samajwadi Party president and also a candidate for prime minister.
Another student in the classroom, Abhay Rajvanshi, 20, said the Samajwadi Party, the regional party that governs the state of Uttar Pradesh, distributed the laptops in September to fulfill a campaign promise after it won the 2012 state assembly elections.
“If I am getting a laptop, then they think — and I also think — that I have to support this political party, because this political party has given me some gift,” Mr. Rajvanshi said.
BJP banks on ex-PM’s legacy in Lucknow
India’s nationalist opposition party taking leaf from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s book to attract minority Muslim voters.
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh – “If you have to change the fortunes of India, it must begin in Lucknow,” Narendra Modi, the opposition prime ministerial candidate, said at an election rally early in March.
His statement reaffirmed a popular saying in Indian politics: The road to New Delhi passes via Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous and politically most important state – Uttar Pradesh.
As the city goes to polls on April 30, the attention is on the constituency’s Muslims, who comprise about 22 percent of the 1.9 million voting population here.
The right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has remained a force here for decades, is making every symbolic gesture to attract the minority voters.
John Oliver on the Indian elections: ‘Modi has gone Tupac at Coachella’
British comedian and former Daily Show regular John Oliver has come out with a hilarious analysis of the Indian elections that’s currently gaining traction on social media. Among the topics he covers on his new HBO show Last Week Tonight: the “Americanization” of Indian media, the US’s apathy toward the elections, and Hindu nationalist prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s emulation of famed rapper Tupac at Coachella.
You can watch the embed below, or see it on the official Last Week Tonight YouTube channel here.
This piece was originally published on April 28, 2014, on Link TV’s World News website.
Moditards or robots: Are Bharatiya Janata Party’s rabid social media activists fake?
The surging Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has had a lively social media presence during this year’s elections in India. Anyone who has ever combined a hashtag with “Modi,” “BJP,” “NaMo,” (a nickname of Narendra Modi here in India) or anything else related to Modi or the BJP has surely encountered Modi supporters either praising or defending their views. These “Moditards,” as some journalists have dubbed them, are generally passionate professionals who want nothing more than for Modi to lead the country, though some accounts are also suspected of being social media robots.
But an enterprising Indian who obviously has some programming skills did some investigating and found that most of these accounts are, in fact, fake Modi supporters.
Living in fear: LGBTs in India
The Supreme Court just granted legal recognition to transgender people, but India’s LGBTs won’t come out of the closet.
LUCKNOW, India — On April 15, India’s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling allowing transgender people to identify as a third gender. The judgment directs the central and state governments to give them full legal recognition, including allotting them similar educational and job quotas as other minorities categorized as socially or economically disadvantaged. To date, transgender Indians — also known as hijras — were forced to select either “male” or “female” on all government forms and routinely faced ostracization due to their gender identity.
While gay rights activists and the LGBT community welcomed the decision, it flies in the face of a December 2013 Supreme Court ruling that recriminalized homosexuality. That ruling — which was criticized by two out of the three national parties contesting India’s general elections, currently underway — overturned a 2009 high court judgment that declared Section 377 of the Indian penal code unconstitutional. The British colonial law, dating back more than 150 years, criminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature” and had long been used to harass gay people.
The 2009 ruling was a watershed moment for gay rights in India. Openly gay-friendly bars and cafés opened across the country, Bollywood movies began featuring gay characters, and homosexuality began to be more accepted in the big cities. The following year, Delhi’s Queer Pride Parade attracted roughly 2,000 people — four times the number it did in 2008. The Supreme Court’s 2013 reversal drew criticism from HIV/AIDS groups, human rights campaigners, media icons and Indian politicians. Around the world, gay rights supporters organized a Global Day of Rage in more than 30 cities in protest.
Now there’s a strange tension between the two Supreme Court rulings: On one hand, transgender people have legal recognition; on the other, they may still be arrested for engaging in gay sex.