India is currently holding its election for Prime Minister, the highest government position in the country. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi is up for re-election primarily against Rahul Gandhi. In this election, 900 million of India’s 1.3 billion people will determine the outcome, the greatest number in the nation’s history. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently holds a majority in parliament. However, Gandhi’s party, the Indian National Congress, has favorable odds to gain the majority due to the unpopular actions of Modi and his party during his five year term. The greatest black mark on Modi’s resume came in 2016, when he announced the demonetization of all 500 and 1000 rupee notes to prevent the influx of counterfeit currency into the economy. However, the decision caused great panic, as people waited for hours in lines at banks to exchange their notes before the deadline. Banks could not meet this demand, creating a cash shortage that would hinder the country’s economic growth for the next fiscal year. In addition, the BJP party is known for being a Hindu nationalist party and intolerant of Muslims and other minority religions, potentially repelling the votes of 20 percent of the nation. Despite these facts, Modi still has the loyalty of his party, whose members believe Gandhi does not have the right to lead India on part of his Italian heritage (His mother, Sonia Gandhi, is Italian).
Distinguishing this election from past elections, in addition to the high number of eligible voters, is the impact of technology. In 2014, the time of the last election, about 100 million smartphones were present in the country. Now, there are over 400 million. On those smartphones, Indians use WhatsApp as their primary communication app. Political parties have used it to spread propaganda, taking advantage of many Indians lack of skepticism of news. Also, these same parties have created bots to flood twitter with hashtags favoring their candidate and bashing others. The true effect will be revealed when election results are announced on May 23rd.
“Phoney War.” The Economist, 13 Apr. 2019, p. 40.
Sengar, Shweta. “What makes 2019 elections different.” India Times, 16 Apr. 2019. http://www.indiatimes.com, http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/900-million-voters-including-38-000-transgenders-1-million-polling-stations-what-makes-2019-elections-different-363562.html.
Accessed 25 Apr. 2019.World population review. 1 Apr. 2019, worldpopulationreview.com/countries/india-population/.