India’s general elections come to a close today with polling in 41 constituencies across Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. The elections, which started on April 7th, are the longest in recent memory, and today, i.e. 12th May, is when the last ballot will be cast.
Here are some points from a report titled “Election tamasha: mother of all” from brokerage house CLSA and what makes the elections unique:
* With an estimated 814 million eligible voters, Indian voting base is larger than the combined population of the US and Western Europe.
* There were 930,000 polling stations with 1.8 million electronic voting machines (EVMs) and 10 million people working on the ground.
* Photo voter slips to identify genuine voters were issues for the first time.
* Nota (None of the above) option was used for the first time in Parliamentary polls, making India the 12th country to use this option.
* Total election spends by politicians reportedly at $5 billion, 150% higher than the 2009 elections; second in the world only to the $7 billion spent during 2012 US Presidential elections.
* Bets worth >$5 billion have been placed on election outcome; highest probability (84%) assigned to a BJP-led Government.
* 17% candidates have declared pending criminal cases against themselves.
* There are 1,600 national and regional parties in India.
* Unlike US companies who either lean left or right, Indian firms have extended their support to both the major parties viz. Congress and BJP; highest contribution by Aditya Birla Group – Rs 36.40 crore to Congress and Rs 26.6 crore to BJP.
* Based on data analysis, the total income between FY05-12 for national political parties is Rs 4,900 crore of which Congress earned Rs 2,360 crore followed by BJP with Rs 1,300 crore.
* Bribing the voters in different forms was observed, strangest of these being handing out pens to voters containing hidden rolled up Rs 1,000 currency notes, distributing train tickets to voters and asking them to exchange for refunds.
* Election Commission set up special flying squads to track the campaign vehicles, storage, production and distribution of liquor. Huge amounts of cash was seized in campaign vehicles, milk vans, ambulances, roofs of buses, lunch boxes etc.
* Elections have proved to be bonanza to helicopter operators; BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has clocked the most flying hours addressing 150 rallies across India. Apart from choppers/charter planes, demand for SUVs shot up from 400 per month to 800 during the two months of campaigning.
* Parties have used ‘dummy’ or ‘clone’ candidates to confuse voters and split votes. For example, a constituency has 11 candidates named Chandulal Shah; a clone of Narendra Modi, named Narendra Babulal Modi, withdrew at the last moment.
* Barack Obama is the only politician to have more Facebook fans than Narendra Modi.