James Camilleri

Legal Officer, PKF Malta

James Camilleri is a Legal Officer at PKF Malta


India – the biggest democracy goes to the polls

Wednesday 01st May 2019

The government in India is currently occupied by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2014, the Hindu BJP made a sweeping victory at the election polls and general elections are being held between the 11th April and 19th May. India adopts the Westminster-style model first-past-the-post electoral system – one in which voters indicate on a ballot the candidate of their choice, and the candidate with the most votes wins. Given this fact and other elements besides, it is improbable an individual party on its own can amass the required majority to form a government. The Indian National Congress (Congress) is the main opposition party and a case in point both the BJP and the Congress have well-established coalitions: the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the former and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for the latter. The party with the majority of seats is entitled to appoint the prime minister.

The federal union of India is composed of 29 states as well as seven union territories. Each state has a number of parliamentary seats assigned in the lower house of Parliament, called Lok Sabah, depending on the size of the state. The top ten primary states by parliamentary weight are, in descending order: Uttar Pradesh (80 seats), Maharashtra (48), West Bengal (42), Bihar (40), Tamil Nadu (39), Madhya Pradesh (29), Karnataka (28), Gujarat (26), Andhra Pradesh (25), and Rajasthan (25). It is understandable that general elections in a country the size of India are divided into phases – the estimated number of eligible voters is close to 900 million. In total there are seven voting phases: Phase 1 on the 11th April; Phase 2 – 18th April; Phase 3 – 23rd April; Phase 4 – 29th April; Phase 5 – 6th May; Phase 6 – 12th May; and Phase 7 – 19th May.

Employment is a theme that commonly surfaces during election time. India has a fast-growing economy but still not fast enough to keep the ever-expanding population close to full employment. Presently, around one million Indians every month reach the age of 18 and the consequence is that unemployment has been constantly on the rise. On another note, 70 per cent of the population earn their living directly or indirectly from agriculture and there has been a steady decrease in the prices of staple foods, this having a negative effect on farmers' income.

In November 2016, an effort by the government to replace the old currency notes with new ones resulted in various unforeseen teething issues, particularly the fact the new notes had a different size so did not fit into ATMs, leading to recalibration delays - this in turn causing the deadlock of economic activity considering it is predominantly a cash-based society. Small businesses were especially harmed by this blunder. Yet another expedition of the foreclosing legislature that is bound to leave voters questioning whether the incumbent parliamentary majority deserves another term is the unification process of the Indian states into a single goods and services tax market. This debuted in a blunder-riddled fashion and businesses were clearly not pleased at all.

Anyone who knows enough about India will appreciate what hidden gems lie within the rubble of this country. Add to this the fact it is an emerging market with unlocked potential, arguably second only to the African continent, and the result is an electoral campaign worthy of the same international coverage as is afforded to the overbearing United States. Rumours about corruption are unfortunately rampant but it is hoped the party, or coalition, with the best vision will win at the polls.