The world’s largest democracy has recently begun its 5-week election cycle. The sheer length and size of India's elections are astounding: six weeks and nine stages encompass an estimated 815 million eligible voters. This process serves as a testament to a democratic system that has always mystified political scientists, as most theories point to wealth as a precondition for functional democracy.While India's democracy may seem chaotic by Western standards, it has assumed a unique character and function for its respective society. However, of greater importance is identifying key players in India's elections, potential prospects for the highest offices, and what this means for India's geopolitics.
Two key components of Indian elections should be remembered going forward.
First, exit polls are banned in India. Official reports of candidates that come out ahead must be delayed until the final round of elections on May 12. In the meantime, media outlets are still permitted to report that candidates have received a certain percentage of the vote, and can create unofficial support for candidates or parties even before official results are declared.
Second, vote buying happens in India, to some extent.
“Feedback has been received about candidates indulging in various methods to induce the voters,” the Electoral Commission of India states.
On a whole, predicting the outcome of India's elections is not easy, and no confident conclusions can be made until after-the-fact.
Regardless of the outcomes, the following geopolitical issues are applicable for India, regardless of the electoral outcome:
Development projects, with focuses on infrastructure, will continue across the country. India's interests in Afghanistan have moved beyond bolstering the influence of the anti-Pakistani Northern Alliance (although support still occurs via official and unofficial channels) to developing internal infrastructure to link Afghanistan to export cities, primarily in Iran.
State-run and private companies in India support these projects, as they secure a source of iron ore deposits. To date, these companies have invested over $2 billion.
With the exception of China, India and Russia are the two prevailing geopolitical powerhouses in Asia. With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) likely to prevail on India's national political scene and Narendra Modi being elected prime minster, despite not earning a majority in Parliament, Modi will likely continue to strengthen relations with the United States, as Singh has performed in his previous two terms. However, since the BJP holds little formal alliance with the United States, it would not be surprising to see Russia strengthening political ties with the BJP.
Modi has been identified as an inherently anti-Muslim politician. Even though relations between India and Pakistan have remained relatively calm in recent years, the prospect of Modi occupying the prime minster's seat, and being vocal about his anti-Muslim position, makes it increasingly likely that Pakistan will illicit political responses.
Modi's intense focus on resonating province-level economic changes in Gujarat to the national Indian scene may bring a certain level of polarization to Indian politics. This division will likely impact Indian-Pakistani relations.
Pundits cannot undermine the significance that the political outcomes of these elections will have on the Asian region, and by extension the world geopolitical scene. India, as a rising star, continues to have a growing influence on the world's political stage.
Photo Credit: PressTV