India: Political Party Advocates the Denial of Voting Rights for Muslims | TIME

A major Indian political party called for the voting rights of Muslims to be revoked in an editorial published Sunday, a statement that was slammed across the board and left its leadership red-faced and hastily backtracking. The editorial was published in Saamana — the mouthpiece of the right-wing Shiv Sena party — and reiterated a statement from its late founder Balasaheb Thackeray that advocated the withdrawal of Muslim people’s right to vote, the Indian Express reported. “If Muslims are being used … to play politics, they can never develop,” the editorial reads. “Balasaheb had once said voting rights of Muslims should be withdrawn. What he said is right.”

India: The dynamics of an unusual Jammu and Kashmir election | The Asian Age

The encouraging 71 per cent voter turnout in the first phase of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly poll plus the violence-free atmosphere in which the election campaign is being conducted is a thumbs-up for Indian democracy. Whether the active engagement of voters with the democratic process was a result of widespread anti-incumbency will be known once the votes are counted on December 23. In the absence of opinion and exit polls, the analyst is obliged to rely on media reportage and anecdotal evidence. These indicate three broad developments. First, it is likely that the People’s Democratic Party led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his feisty daughter Mehbooba Mufti will be the principal gainer in the 46 seats of Kashmir. It is entirely possible that the National Conference led by chief minister Omar Abdullah and his Congress ally may experience a total rout in the Valley. Second, it seems that the fear of an ascendant Bharatiya Janata Party and the possibility of a chief minister from the Jammu region have motivated many of those loosely associated with the parties of the Hurriyat Conference to break ranks and participate in the voting. Finally, it appears that the BJP has made huge inroads in the state where it won three of the six Lok Sabha seats in the general election. The BJP’s gain in Jammu will primarily be at the cost of the Congress and NC. In addition, the BJP has forcefully registered its presence in Ladakh and may even be in the running in six constituencies in the Kashmir Valley.

India: Ruling Party Concedes Defeat | VoA News

Opposition candidate Narendra Modi will be the next prime minister of India, with early election results on Friday showing the pro-business Hindu nationalist and his party headed for the biggest victory the country has seen in 30 years. India’s ruling Congress party conceded defeat Friday. Congress party spokesmen told reporters the party had accepted that the country decided to vote against them. The alliance led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was winning the vote count in 325 parliamentary seats, far more than the majority of 272 required to rule. Even on its own, the BJP was ahead in 273 seats. The United Progressive Alliance led by the Gandhi family’s Congress party, which has ruled India for the last decade, was leading in just 67 seats – its worst-ever showing.

India: Votes for Sale: India’s Election Problem | Wall Street Journal

The big question for some voters as India’s marathon national election reaches its final stages isn’t who will win, it is how much candidates will dole out in cash, alcohol and other goodies to bag their support. Residents and election officials alike say vote-buying has long been a problem in the world’s largest democracy, even though it is against the law. Early reports suggest it may be widespread again in the current round, which began April 7 and ends Monday. Results are expected four days later. In the northern state of Punjab, for instance, election-monitoring teams have seized over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of heroin, 50 kilograms of opium and thousands of liters of illicit alcohol that they believe may have been meant for buying votes. In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, police are investigating possible criminal charges against the wife of a candidate who was caught carrying $75,000 in cash in a computer bag while traveling on a public bus to her husband’s constituency. The woman denied any wrongdoing.

Editorials: India’s protracted election: Speed it up | The Economist

The sixth phase of India’s protracted general election took place on April 24th. Voters trooped to polling stations in 117 constituencies in various states including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As with other rounds there was much to cheer: first-time voters, enthusiasm in cities and villages, determination to take part despite the heat. Momentum seems to be with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi. A late surge of support for the BJP is reported even in places—West Bengal, Odisha—where the party has traditionally not done well. If true, its prospects of forming the next government look stronger by the day. Three more rounds of voting are due, the last on May 12th, before results are published on May 16th. It constitutes a marathon election. The voting period is eight days longer than last time, in 2009. Count in all the official campaigning and India will have been busy with its general election for a whopping 72 days. The local devotion to voting looks more remarkable with each successive election. As the population grows, and so the electorate, the process will presumably get more protracted yet. The next national poll is likely in 2019, by when more days of voting, and further rounds, may be needed to accommodate many more tens of millions of new voters. Are long elections a problem? They can certainly grow tedious, as some rightly point out that other big countries hold elections much quicker. Brazil, Indonesia and America can all get it done in a single day. The European parliamentary elections next month, across the whole of the European Union, will wrap up within four days. One of the reasons Thailand’s recent general election was annulled was because of a failure to abide by its constitution and hold it in a single day.

India: Voters lured by cash handouts, drugs, bootleg liquor | Reuters

Indian election officials have seized a record $36 million (21.52 million pounds) dollars of cash concealed in cars, private planes and even ambulances that they say was destined to buy off voters and pay for expenses over and above the spending limit. Opinion polls show the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies coming to power thanks to the popularity of Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi and widespread disgust with the Congress party, whose last years in power have been dogged by corruption scandals and a sharp economic slowdown. Despite the dramatic political change it could bring, the 2014 election would appear to be the same grubby game of cash-for-votes that has marred previous ballots in the world’s largest democracy, only this time on a far bigger scale. Cash seized in the three weeks since the staggered election was announced has already surpassed the 1.9 billion rupees for the whole of the 2009 ballot period, the commission said. Voting in this year’s election began on April 7 and winds up on May 12.

India: A Preview of India’s 2014 Election: How Will 800 Million People Choose Their Next Leader? | International Business Times

India will embark Monday on the biggest democratic election in global history with some 815 million eligible voters, more than all the people in the U.S., Russia, Japan and Nigeria combined, casting ballots in a six-week process to elect a prime minister. It’s a logistics tour de force: Voting will occur at 930,000 polling stations across India from April 7 to May 12. It’s also more complex than an election in a direct democracy. Rather, based on the British parliamentary system, Indians vote for 543 legislators who then appoint a prime minister from the party that amasses a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, where each state in India has proportional representation, as in the U.S. House of Representatives. The independent Election Commission of India will count votes and announce results on May 16. If no one party has amassed a simple majority in parliament on that date, parties will have only a few weeks of frantic negotiations in which to form alliances and name a new prime minister.

India: India’s new voters: We are connected | The Economist

India’s general election, the world’s biggest democratic exercise, kicks off on April 7th. Voting will take place, across 35 states and territories, until May 12th. The country has a Westminster-style system: it is divided into 543 roughly equal constituencies (typically with some 1.5m voters), each sending a single MP to parliament. The whole electorate is a whopping 815m people, the populations of America and the EU combined. A decade of rising incomes, on the back of a growth spurt, has improved many lives. Yet opinion polls show that voters everywhere are grumpy. One released this week by the Pew Research Centre found 70% dissatisfied with India’s prospects and more than eight out of ten bitterly gloomy about economic matters. “Everything is a problem for the Indian voter,” concludes Bruce Stokes of Pew.

India: India says elections to begin April 7, with voting held in stages | Associated Press

India said Wednesday it will begin national elections on April 7, kicking off a month-long contest in the largest democracy in the world. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, has the momentum heading into the polls. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center said 63 percent of Indians prefer the Hindu nationalist BJP over the incumbent Congress party, which has dominated Indian politics for most of the country’s history since independence in 1947. The election is held over several weeks for reasons of logistics and safety in a country of 1.2 billion. More than 810 million people are eligible to vote this year — an increase of 100 million from five years ago, according to the Election Commission. Vote counting will be held May 16 and most results are expected the same day, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said.

India: ‘None of the Above’ Polls Poorly | Wall Street Journal

For the first time in elections in India, voters who cast ballots in recent assembly polls had the option to reject all candidates and vote for “none of the above.” The choice to do so appears to have been less popular than anticipated. Across Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, only 1.67 million voters out of a combined electorate of 115 million, chose to assert their right to register contempt for all candidates, according to figures released Sunday by the Election Commission of India. Vote counting in Mizoram where elections were also held in November began Monday in the predominantly Christian state because of petitions by church officials who said that Sunday should be reserved for religious observance. The Congress party retained power in the tiny northeastern state, where results, released by the Election Commission of India Monday, showed that the “none of the above” option was used by less than 1% (around 3,800) of voters.

India: Statue-gate: Mayawati’s party attacks Election Commission | NDTV

A day after the Uttar Pradesh government complied with the Election Commission’s deadline to cover all statues of Chief Minister Mayawati and her party’s election symbol, the elephant, the Bahujan Samaj Party has hit out at the poll panel saying the decision was one-sided and had hurt the sentiments of the downtrodden. In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, senior party leader Satish Chandra Mishra questioned the commission’s intention to conduct free and fair elections in the state, which will see voting over seven phases in February. He claimed that the decision was unjustified and was a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

India: Setback to Election Commission as India paper trail pilot poll reports errors |

In a setback to the Election Commission (EC), its pilot poll conducted on Sunday to establish a paper trail for electronic voting machines (EVMs) reported significant errors.

Preliminary results of the EC pilot poll indicated discrepancies between votes polled in EVMs and the paper trail, according to three people involved and familiar with the testing process. Two of them are EC officials who confirmed the mismatch, but did not give any more details. EC will release a comprehensive report on the pilot poll in a few days.

“Even a difference of one vote is not acceptable,” said one of the EC officials, who, like the other EC official familiar with the matter, asked not to be identified given the controversial nature of the findings.

India: District Election Officer says electronic voting machines were not tampered | DNA

The deputy district election officer (DEO), Apurva Wankhede, has refuted allegations of political parties that some of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were tampered with during the counting of votes.

The election for the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) Chatuhshrungi Mandir ward’s by-election was held on Sunday. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Congress and an independent candidate had made the allegations.