The patience of king makers

The complexity of Indias' process for electing its Lok Sabha members in a nation of 1 Billion is only matched by the diversity of it electorate and the plethora of regional parties.

In the previous election cycle there were 8070 candidates contesting 543 seats from 364 different political parties. From all accounts, these numbers have increased for 2014. It's estimated there is an additional 100 million eligible to vote this year, compared to the last election only 4 years ago. This is easily explained by the fact that the median age in India is 25.1 years. The percentage of 0-14 year olds in 2009 was 30% of India's population.

To reach out to these electorates, The Centre for Media Studies estimates that US$5 billion will be spent by the contesting parties. This is three times the amount spent in 2009 and is second only to the US$7 billion spent in the US during their 2012 US elections. Even so, this amounts to a paltry US$6 spent per electorate in India, which is much lower than the US$36 spent per electorate in the US.

While this election spending may be a great temporary boost for the economy, especially with India's advertising industry expecting to see an $800 Million injection, one wonders what it will do for democracy in the future. If the spending per electorate in the US is any sign, there is still room for spending more in India. Will India see its election process dominated by corporations, as has happened elsewhere? 'Money Power' will become an important issue in both this election and in succeeding ones for India.

However, for now, it does not seem that corporations will be able to dictate who will rule. Regional parties maintain the mantel of king maker. Of these, Tamil Nadu will likely play an important part. Neither of the two national parties have strong positions in the State, and it will be the regional parties there that will slog it out to win as many of the 39 seats available as possible. Our own analysis of seat safety, based on the previous four election cycles, noted that 8 constituencies within Tamil Nadu presented bellwether traits, in that they had been part of the ruling alliance frequently over the last two decades. These were Arakkonam, Chidambaram, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Perambalur, Sriperumbudur, and Vellore. The NDA has its rainbow alliance fielding candidates in each of these constituencies, but the prevailing predictions are that the real battle will be between the DMK and AIADMK in the state. Neither of these parties has joined any alliance. Clearly, they will see what they can gain post-election, when they will inevitably think about alliance-forming. This will be especially true if either of the national parties is unable to form an outright majority. This reminds us of an old Tamil Proverb,

'பொறுத்தார் பூமி் ஆள்வார்'
'The patient will rule the World'

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