Tag Archives: lok sabha

Forget the Gandhis. Kejriwal is now India’s true opposition leader.

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When the former (and now future) Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal challenged Narendra Modi for a seat in the Indian parliament from the symbolically and religiously important city of Varanasi last spring, it was a sign that Kejriwal, days after resigning from Delhi’s 49-day government, maybe bit off more than he could chew. India Flag Icon

He lost. Badly.

Furthermore, instead of securing a national perch in Delhi, where Kejriwal (pictured above) and his newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, आम आदमी की पार्टी, literally the ‘Common Man’ Party) found such success in the 2013 Delhi regional elections, the party instead won none of the seven seats up for grabs to the lower house of the Indian parliament. The AAP managed to win four seats in Punjab only because of voter disgust with the corruption of the ruling Sikh nationalist party in that state.

Kejriwal’s decision to resign as chief minister, just 49 days after forming a minority AAP-led government to wage a national campaign looked like a disaster. The AAP, like many third parties, was largely swept aside by the Modi wave that gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, or भारतीय जनता पार्टी) a landslide victory.

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RELATED: Kejriwal’s AAP looks for second chance in Delhi vote

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After Delhi’s government reverted to president’s rule, it seemed like the BJP would easily sweep to power there too, especially after winning regional elections last October in Maharashtra, the home of Mumbai (Bombay) and the second-most populous state in India.

Today, however, with the announcement that the AAP swept up an unexpectedly strong victory in voting on February 7 (winning 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi legislative assembly), it’s no longer risible to think about Kejriwal competing on the same platform as Modi. Voters have given Kejriwal, whose AAP is barely two years old, a second chance to carry out his agenda of anti-corruption good governance. It’s the first time since Modi’s remarkable national victory last spring that any figure or group has decisively defeated the BJP at any level of Indian politics.

Remember that in the landscape-shifting December 2013 elections, the AAP won just 28 seats, four fewer than the BJP. It governed in an awkward alliance with the Indian National Congress (भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) that, under former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, had governed Delhi for 15 years and, increasingly, became synonymous with corruption and incompetence.

delhivote15In the latest vote, Congress won no seats at all to Delhi’s legislative assembly. The party is still reeling after its massive rejection last spring. Congress won so few seats nationally that it cannot even appoint the leader of the opposition in the lower house of the Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा). Since its defeat, there’s no sign that the Nehru-Gandhi family shows any sign of realizing that it must fundamentally change in order to regain the electorate’s trust. There’s no sign of any rising stars in the party from outside the family — if Rahul Gandhi proved uncharismatic and uninspired in 2014, it’s conceivable that his sister, Priyanka Vadra, might be the right answer for 2019.

But given the uninspired leadership of the quasi-monarchical Gandhi family, Kejriwal has a real chance to eclipse Congress and build a new, populist force for the secular center-left in India, attracting votes from all castes and religions whose votes are no longer tied to the independence movement of the 1930s and 1940s. That’s provided that Kejriwal can, in the years ahead in Delhi, deliver on his promise of less corruption, better services and greater safety, especially for women. (Critics will note that there’s plenty of Hindu traditionalism lurking beneath the surface of the AAP movement, but that’s just as true for Congress as well or for any Indian party that wants to compete in a country where four-fifths of its population practice Hinduism). Continue reading Forget the Gandhis. Kejriwal is now India’s true opposition leader.

Jayalalithaa scrambles India’s southern regional politics

JayalalithaPhoto credit to Malayalam Daily News.

It says something about the strength of India’s democracy that a regional leader who controls the third-largest bloc of MPs in the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा), the lower house of the Indian parliament,  and who has developed something of a personality cult as chief minister of her home state of Tamil Nadu, can fall from power broker to convicted felon in the blink of an eye.India Flag Icon

So it goes for Jayalalithaa (pictured above), a former star of Tamil cinema, who has towered over Tamil Nadu’s politics for the past three decades — she first served as chief minister from 1991 to 1996, again for four months in 2001, from 2002 to 2006 and, most recently, since May 2011 regional elections, when her party, the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) won a landslide victory. She is known throughout the state as Amma, a Tamil word for ‘mother.’

With over 72 million people, Tamil Nadu is the sixth-most populous in India, and it has a population equivalent to Turkey’s. Its Tamil-speaking population also makes it unique among India’s states as a key cultural link with Sri Lanka, the island nation to India’s southeast.

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In the most recent national elections in April and May 2014, her party won 37 out of 39 constituencies in the state of Tamil Nadu, a rare performance in withstanding the electoral wave that brought prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) its biggest mandate, by far in Indian history.

But on Saturday, Jayalalithaa’s luck ran out when a Karnataka-based court sentenced her to a four-year jail term in a corruption case that resulted, suddenly, in her demotion from office. The court found Jayalalithaa guilty in a ‘disproportionate assets’ case, essentially convicting her for illegally obtaining up to 530 million rupees (around $8.7 million) in unexplained income. That forced her to step down immediately as chief minister and report to prison, though she’ll have an opportunity to appeal the verdict.

She is now the first sitting chief minister to be found guilty of corruption charges.

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RELATED: Jayalalithaa, the Tamil actress-turned-strongwoman,
could play India’s kingmaker

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If the conviction holds, it will be a rare victory for anti-corruption reformers in India. Among the strongest regional politicians, few are as powerful or as popular as Jayalalithaa. That give the case national importance. If the Indian judiciary can hold to account someone like Jayalalithaa, whose face plasters billboards, subsidized food halls and even bottled water in Tamil Nadu, no one in India can credibly believe that she (or he) is above the law. It’s a powerful precedent, and it’s a sign to global investors of the growing strength of Indian legal institutions.
Continue reading Jayalalithaa scrambles India’s southern regional politics

A state-by-state overview of India’s election results

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It quickly became clear early on Friday morning across India that Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) were headed for a historical victory in India’s national elections, which took place across nine separate phases between April 7 and May 12. India Flag Icon

But to really understand the impact of the victory, it’s important to delve into the results on a state-by-state level. Where did the BJP massively exceed expectations? Where did it fall short? Where did regional leaders keep the ‘Modi wave’ at bay? Where did regional leaders fail? Each state tells us something about the future shape of India’s new political reality in New Delhi and about the future of state governance, which, after all, represents the most important level of government for most Indians, even in the Modi era.

For the record, here are the final results:

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The BJP, together with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 336 seats in the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा), the House of the People, the lower house of India’s parliament. It’s the largest mandate that any Indian party/coalition has won since 1984.

The ruling Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won just 58 seats. Not only did the Congress suffer the worst defeat of its history under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s first post-independence prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, it’s the first time that a non-Congress party has won an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.

Regional parties and other third groups won an additional 149 seats. Continue reading A state-by-state overview of India’s election results

India’s election results: Modi wave largest mandate since 1984

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The results are now (largely) in for what will certainly be one of the biggest election dramas of the decade.India Flag Icon

Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister, has led the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) to its best-ever victory. In India’s post-independence history, it’s the first time that the BJP — or any party — has won an absolute majority other than the  Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस).

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RELATED: In-Depth: India’s elections

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Conversely, the Congress, the party of Indian independence and the party of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, has suffered its worst defeat in the history of independent India. After a decade of rule, party president Sonia Gandhi and her son, party vice president Rahul Gandhi, face a long wilderness in the Modi era.

Here’s the latest on results, via NDTV:

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The BJP, by itself, will hold 284 seats, which gives it an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा). Together with its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), it will hold 340 seats. That represents the largest mandate that any governing coalition has won since 1984, when Congress won over 400 seats under Rajiv Gandhi, who was waging the fight after his mother, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her SIkh bodyguards in the wake of Sikh riots.

It’s hard to describe just what a massive landslide this was, but this NDTV map of all 543 constituencies give you a good idea:

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Continue reading India’s election results: Modi wave largest mandate since 1984

Who’s who in Modi-world: A guide to the next Indian government

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In just a few hours, India’s national election results will be released.India Flag Icon

If exit polls (and virtually all polls, leading up to India’s six-week elections) are correct, Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi will have delivered his conservative, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) and its allies to a potentially historic victory — and an equally historic defeat for the ruling Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस).

Whatever happens when election results are announced, there’s no doubt that Modi led one of the most ‘presidential’ campaigns in Indian history. If the BJP emerges victorious, as expected, it will be a mandate for Modi as much as for the BJP.

The magic number is 272 — if the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) can win an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा), the lower house of the Indian parliament, Modi will certainly be India’s next prime minister, and he’ll likely steer a relatively stable government that should last for its full five-year term.

If the BJP and its allies fall short of 272 seats, while still emerging as the largest bloc in the Lok Sabha, they will also likely form the next government by forging a series of alliances with regional parties, including any of the following:

  • the ruling, Dravidian AIADMK of Tamil Nadu’s chief minister Jayalalithaa;
  • the Uttar Pradesh-based Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of former chief minister Mayawati; or
  • the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which is a former member of the NDA, and is forecast to win both state and Lok Sabha elections in the state of Odisha.

While regional allies might temper the Hindutva tendencies of a stronger BJP government, they might also prevent Modi from enacting the kind of economic reforms that he has promised to unleash greater GDP growth and development and to stymie bureaucratic waste and massive corruption.

In any event, almost every sign indicates that Modi will become India’s next prime minister, and he was already gathering with top BJP officials in Gujarat yesterday planning his new government (pictured below in a photo that Modi tweeted):

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So who are the individuals that could become the most important officials in a Modi administration?

Here is Suffragio‘s guide to Modi-world — a list of 25 Indian politicians and leaders who are most expected to play a role in a government that promises to be very different than the current government.

The officials are divided into four categories:

  • the BJP’s ‘old guard,’ which controlled the party in the its first major stint in government between 1998 and 2004;
  • the BJP’s ‘new guard,’ the new generation of leadership with whom Modi is more comfortable;
  • the Gujaratis, the members of Modi’s own inner circle after 13 years of state government; and
  • the allies, those non-BJP party leaders who might be expected to take key roles within the NDA and otherwise in the next government.

Continue reading Who’s who in Modi-world: A guide to the next Indian government

Mamata-Modi spat takes center stage in West Bengal

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In today’s final phase of India’s six-week national elections, attention has increasingly shifted to West Bengal, which will elect the final 17 of its 42 seats in the lower house of the Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा).India Flag Icon

But even as he tries to sweep the rest of the country, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the conservative, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) will find precious few votes in West Bengal.

As far as that goes, neither will his national rival, the secular Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस), which has governed India for the past decade under the leadership of party president Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh.

That’s because, like so many of India’s states these days, West Bengalese politics is dominated by entirely regional forces.

Between 1977 and 2011, West Bengal featured the longest consecutive communist government in elective history — under the long-serving chief minister Joyti Basu, from 1977 to 2000, and his successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, from 2000 to 2011. For 34 years, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) ruled West Bengal as the largest party of the Left Front (বাম ফ্রন্ট) coalition.

That all changed with the 2011 state assembly elections, when Mamata Banerjee (pictured above), known simply as ‘didi‘ (‘sister’ in Bengali), swept to power in a lopsided victory. She and her allies now control 227 of the 294 sets in the legislative assembly. Banerjee, who began her career in the Congress Party, formed the All India Trinamool Congess (TMC, সর্বভারতীয় তৃণমূল কংগ্রেস) in 1997.

Banerjee quickly joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and became railways minister in the BJP-led government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. She re-aligned herself with the Congress Party in   2009 as part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and once again served as railways minister, this time under Singh.

She returned to West Bengal for the 2011 state campaign, leading the TMC to its overwhelming victory. As chief minister, Banerjee has emerged as one of the most powerful players in Indian politics, and while she may not have lived up to high expectations that followed her victory three years ago, she’s generally seen as a relatively honest public servant and she’s worked to improve health and education programs throughout West Bengal, traditionally one of India’s poorer states on a per-capita basis.

It’s difficult to place Banerjee politically. At the state political level, she and the TMC are ideologically to the right of the Left Front, naturally, and at the national level, Banerjee has allied with both the major parties. It’s perhaps most correct to say that Banerjee is a populist, veering left or right as convenient for her political future or for West Bengal’s relationship vis-à-vis the central government.

But an alliance with the BJP seems unlikely as Modi and Banerjee has increasingly traded harsh barbs on the campaign trail.

Much of the explanation lies at the intersection of religion and politics. Modi is trying to maximize Hindu support in West Bengal, but also in the voter-rich states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and elsewhere in the ‘Hindi belt.’ Banerjee, for her part, is increasingly trying to unite Muslim voters in West Bengal, which comprise over one-quarter of West Bengal’s 91 million residents.

Modi has attacked the West Bengal state government for its handling of the Saradha Group financial scam that defrauded 1.7 million Indians, mostly in West Bengal, of up to $6 billion. Earlier this month, India’s supreme court referred the current investigations to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation amid signs of political interference. Modi has also taken a hard stand against Bangladeshi illegal immigrants. Last week, Banerjee pushed back, calling Modi a ‘donkey,’ and chastising him as the ‘butcher of Gujarat’ for his alleged role in deadly riots there in 2002.

Why is this all so important?  Continue reading Mamata-Modi spat takes center stage in West Bengal

India Lok Sabha elections: Phase 5

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It’s election day once again in India, and today marks the fifth phase of the nine-phase marathon to determine India’s national government. Indians today will elect 121 members of the Lok Sabha (लोक सभा). That makes today’s round, just barely, the most important of all nine phases. Together with the April 24 phase next week, Indians will choose 43% of the seats in the entire Lok Sabha in just two rounds of voting.  India Flag Icon

So what are the keys to the voting in today’s phase?

Here’s our trusty map of India’s states, as a reference point before we jump into the state-by-state breakdown:

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Karnataka

The biggest prize is the south-central state of Karnataka, a state of over 61 million Indians, home to Bangalore and India’s high-tech sector. All of its 28 representatives to the Lok Sabha will be elected in today’s voting.

More than any other state in India, it’s been especially impermeable to the ‘Modi wave’ that polls predict will lift the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) and its prime ministerial candidate, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, to power.

In the May 2013 state elections, the BJP lost control of the Karnataka state government, terminating the BJP’s historic first government in India’s south. The loss had less to do with Modi than with corruption and infighting within the state party. Nonetheless, the  BJP was wiped out, losing 72 seats in the state assembly, and damaging its reputation in advance of this year’s national elections.

With the memories of the disastrous BJP state government still fresh, Karnataka could be the rare bright spot for India’s governing party, the Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस), which could pick up eight seats for a total of 14, according to the latest NDTV poll.

One of the marquee contests is in the Bangalore South constituency, where Congress’s candidate is Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekan, running against the BJP’s Ananth Kumar. 

Rajasthan 

The BJP’s most impressive victory in last November’s state elections occurred in the arid, western state of Rajasthan, India’s eight-most populous state, where Congress lost 75 seats and the BJP gained 84 in the state’s legislative assembly. It was the BJP’s best-ever performance and Congress’s worst-ever performance.

So Modi has high hopes here, in a state that lies just north of his own home state of Gujarat — if the BJP runs away with this election and forms India’s next government, it will be largely because of the lopsided  victories it’s expected to win here and elsewhere in India’s north.

Twenty constituencies, out of a total of 25, will vote in Rajasthan today, including the historic city of Jodhpur (pictured above).

Continue reading India Lok Sabha elections: Phase 5

India Lok Sabha elections: Phase 4

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After a huge third phase in which 91 constituencies of India’s election were decided on April 10, Saturday’s fourth phase of India’s general election is barely a trickle — just seven seats. India Flag Icon

It’s the last ‘miniature’ phase of the election — the next five phases, through May 12, will determine the remaining 432 (out of 543) seats of India’s Lok Sabha (लोक सभा).

The April 12 phase coincides with elections to determine Sikkim’s legislative assembly, and it will elect Sikkim’s sole representative to the Lok Sabha.

The Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF, सिक्किम प्रजातान्त्रिक मोर्चा) dominates Sikkimese politics, and its chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, who has been in power since 1994, hopes to win a record fifth consecutive term in office. Though the SDF isn’t formally part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), it might be expected to back Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) if it has enough strength to form a government, as widely expected.

Where are the other six constituencies?

  • In Goa, another small state, notable for its pristine beach resorts and its Portuguese influence, will elect both of its representatives to the Lok Sabha. The BJP narrowly controls the state government, and the BJP and its national rival, the Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) currently split Goa’s two Lok Sabha seats.
  • In Assam, the largest of the ‘seven sister states’ of India’s far northeastern corner, where 14 seats are up for grabs, three constituencies will vote on Saturday. Five of its constituencies held elections in India’s first phase.
  • Tripura, another northeastern state, which also elected one of its two representatives to the Lok Sabha in India’s first phase, will elect the second on Saturday.

Without offense to northeastern India, Goa or Sikkim, the fourth phase won’t determine the country’s next government.

The photo above shows a statute in the city of Namchi depicting Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim.

Indian Lok Sabha elections: Phases 1 and 2

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Voting today ended in the second phase of India’s marathon election. So what was at stake in the first two rounds?India Flag Icon

Not much.

The two rounds were confined to the ‘seven sister states’ in India’s far northeastern corner, nudged to the east of Bangladesh and to the west of China and Burma. The seven states, just southeast of the Himalayas, are home to just 45 million of India’s 1.24 billion citizens. Part of the area is claimed by the People’s Republic of China, an issue that has long strained the bilateral Indo-Chinese relationship — China claims significant part of Arunachal Pradesh as ‘south Tibet.’

Bangladeshi migration into the region has also been one of the more politically fraught issues in recent years.

The first round, which kicked off on April 7, included just six constituencies:

  • Assam selected representatives in five out of 14 constituencies.
  • Tripura selected representatives in one of its two constituencies. The state is governed by neither of India’s major parties, but instead by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM, भारत की कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी (मार्क्सवादी), which could win both seats.

The second round included nearly just as few (seven):

  • Arunachal Pradesh selected both of its representatives.
  • Meghalaya selected both of its representatives.
  • Manipur selected one of its two representatives.
  • Mizoram was scheduled to vote for its sole representative, but that vote was been delayed until April 11.
  • Nagaland selected its sole representative. The Naga People’s Front (NPM), a regional party and a member of the BJP’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) dominates the state. 

The seven states contribute just 24 seats to the 543-member Lok Sabha (लोक सभा), and the key prize is Assam, with 14 seats.

Although the governing Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) is facing annihilation elsewhere across the country, its chances in Assam look good. The largest pre-election poll, conducted by NDTV, estimates that Congress could actually make real gains, winning up to 12 seats in the state.

Tarun Gogoi, the state’s popular chief minister, has held power since 2001, and Congress dominates the state’s legislative assembly. The Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) has only a minor presence in the state, and competes against several Assam-based regional parties. That may be changing somewhat as Narendra Modi, the BJP prime ministerial candidate, and his allies wage a national campaign, but Assam will certainly be one of the few states where Congress seems destined to shine, notwithstanding its potential collapse at the national level.

Could LK Advani become India’s next prime minister?

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With India’s massive nine-phase election now underway, what happens if Narendra Modi doesn’t quite win a majority in India’s parliament?India Flag Icon

Everyone believes that Modi, the longtime chief minister of Gujarat, and his conservative, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, भारतीय जनता पार्टी) are headed for a historic victory. But that might not be enough — and if history is any guide, it won’t be enough, even taking into account the seats of the BJP’s coalition partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

That could mean that India’s ‘Third Front,’ a motley group of regional and Marxist/socialist parties, could team up with the remnants of the center-left Indian National Congress (Congress, भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) and the few parties that remain in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). India has had Third Front governments  in the past, but it’s a path that traditionally leads to acrimony, dysfunction and, sooner rather than later, new elections.

But if the BJP performs as well as polls widely suggest it might, there could be no doubt that the BJP (and Modi) have a stronger mandate to govern India and a stronger claim on forming the government than a rag-tag coalition of a dozen or more parties.

In that scenario, the BJP may be forced to turn to additional parties — and their price for support might require that the BJP jettisons Modi as its prime minister. That’s when things get really interesting, and it’s why the internal rifts inside the BJP over the past two years will become so important if and when the BJP/NDA wins the election with less than an absolute majority. In particular, it means that the rift between Modi and the elder statesman of the BJP, Lal Krishna Advani (pictured above, left, with Modi) could determine the identity of India’s next prime minister. Continue reading Could LK Advani become India’s next prime minister?

Spring 2014 voting blitz: five days, six elections

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We’re beginning to hit the peak of what’s perhaps the busiest world election season of the past few years.

What began as a slow year with boycotted votes in Bangladesh and Thailand in the first two months of 2014 snowballed into a busier March, with important parliamentary elections in Colombia, the final presidential vote in El Salvador, parliamentary elections in Serbia, a key presidential