In World's Biggest Democratic Election, India To Begin Voting From April 19; Results On June 4

The world’s biggest democratic election exercise will kick off in India from April 19 in the backdrop of startling revelations by the State Bank of India on funding mechanisms for political parties in the country

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Voters stand in a queue at a polling station to cast their ballot during 8th phase of West Bengal assembly elections in Kolkata, India on 29th April, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Voting for 543 Lok Sabha seats in India will begin from April 19, and will be held in seven phases with results being announced on June 4. This will kick off the world’s biggest democratic election exercise in the backdrop of startling revelations by the State Bank of India on funding mechanisms for political parties in the country. 

Nearly 97 crore people are eligible to cast their vote in the month-long political marathon that will decide whether the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be elected to a rare third consecutive term in power. Meanwhile, the election is also being seen as a ‘do or die’ battle for the opposition INDIA bloc, especially after the exit of Nitish Kumar in Bihar which dealt a solid blow to the core of the alliance.

Election dates

Four states - Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh - will hold simultaneous assembly elections. Andhra Pradesh will vote on May 19; Arunachal and Sikkim will vote on April 19; Odisha will go to polls in four phases with voting on May 13, May 20, May 25 and June 1.

Additionally, by-elections will be held for 26 assembly seats across several states including Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc.

The parliamentary elections will be held in seven phases:

Phase 1: Voting for 102 seats will be held on April 19.

Phase 2: Voting for 89 seats across 13 states/UTs will be held on April 26.

Phase 3: Voting for 94 Lok Sabha seats across 12 states/UTs will be held on May 7.

Phase 4: Voting for 96 Lok Sabha seats across 10 states and UTs will be held on May 13.

Phase 5: Voting for 49 Lok Sabha seats will be held on May 20.

Phase 6: Voting for 57 Lok Sabha seats will be held on May 25.

Phase 7: Last phase of voting will be held on June 1 to cover 57 Lok Sabha seats across eight states.

Results for all elections - assembly elections, by-elections and parliamentary elections will be announced on June 4.

Questions of transparency 

Weeks ahead of the election announcement, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud scrapped the seven-year-old electoral bonds scheme that allowed individuals and companies to donate funds to political parties anonymously. The ruling came as a setback to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which has bagged the lion’s share of political donations through the controversial scheme. 

According to the data of the electoral bonds published by the Election Commission, the BJP received the highest contributions through the electoral bonds amounting to Rs 6,566 crore or 54.77 per cent, followed by the Congress with Rs 1,123 crore or 9.37 per cent, and the Trinamool Congress Rs 1,092 crore or 9.11 per cent. 

While the Supreme Court order was hailed by many, key questions of transparency still remain as the data published by EC in two separate documents discloses who donated how much and who received how much money, but without any correlation between the two lists yet. Although the top court has now issued notice to the SBI on its failure to disclose these numbers and ordered it to reveal the details by Monday, will its revelations turn the tide against Modi and BJP?

Key issues 

Over the past few months, contentious issues like the Citizenship Amendment Act, one nation one election, Uniform Civil Code, the grand inauguration of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and BJP’s emphatic win in 2023 assembly elections have dominated the political discourse in the country, with the BJP reiterating that “Jo kaha, voh kiya (delivered all that we promised)”. 

The Opposition, on the other hand, has been demanding a nationwide caste census, highlighting threats to press freedom and civil liberties, arrests of and raids on opposition leaders along with a concerted attack on BJP government’s policies. The disclosure of electoral bonds by the EC and SBI is also likely to give the opposition some ammunition.

But will these issues sway the voter? Or will the power of ‘Modi guarantee’ win again?