Young Bites. Dated: 4/12/2019 7:56:25 AM

With one in six Lok Sabha constituencies going to the polls today, the first phase of the general elections takes off. There are 900 million Indians eligible to vote in the elections to the 17th Lok Sabha that start in parts of the country from today. About 10 per cent of these voters are first-timers who will be exercising their democratic mandate for the first time. And like every Lok Sabha poll before it, these are important elections in the sense that they will determine the direction that the country will take over the next few years and shape the idea of India henceforth. Major challenges abound, from foreign policy issues starting with Pakistan, India’s emerging economic dependency on Chinese imports as well as other emerging global issues such as India’s position after Brexit and with Donald Trump. There are major domestic issues, rapidly escalating youth unemployment, stagnating economic growth, a crumbling education system, agrarian distress, the constant problem of domestic terrorism among others. The next government that will take office by the end of May will have its hands full from the very first day. This is also looking like an incredibly close election. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which seemed unassailable just two years ago, is looking at much reduced numbers, while the gathbandhan (alliance) in Uttar Pradesh between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has survived despite its inherent contradictions and reset power equations. The BJP and its allies are almost certain to lose seats in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra and are likely to make up their losses in the north and west with gains from the south, east and northeast even though they may be just a handful in all likelihood. India may, therefore, return to a proper coalition government where “compromises” will need to be made by everyone. But despite the BJP losing seats and the Congress and its allies catching up, the overall belief that the BJP will still head the coalition remains prevalent. May be, there will be a better check and balance. This newspaper will not endorse any party or candidate. However it strongly believes that every voter should exercise his or her mandate. We must also remember that this humongous logistical process is possible because of electoral officials manning the booths and the police and security forces who are working through the incredible heat to ensure the polls take place without any hiccup.


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