NEW DELHI – Last week, India’s independent Election Commission announced the dates for the next general election. The world’s largest single exercise of the democratic franchise will take place over a staggering 37 days in nine “phases,” some a week apart, from April 7 to May 12. Some 814 million eligible voters will elect, for the 16th time, a new parliament and government, casting their ballots at more than 930,000 polling stations – after choosing from an estimated 15,000 candidates belonging to more than 500 political parties.
Democracy, of course, is a process, not an event. But India’s elections – with their outsize logistical and security challenges, myriad languages, and candidates identified not just by name but also by electoral symbols to aid illiterate voters – are events that evoke admiration each time they occur.