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Policing India's power chase

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Policing India's power chase


Scratch the surface of elections anywhere and see what drama they contain. Samples follow.

Many people who follow general news ignore elections, either where they live or in other countries. Yet India’s case is guaranteed to amaze, first of all by its immensity. This exercise of democracy in India is not only the world’s biggest, it is the biggest in history.

Colossal organisation: around 815 million people are registered to vote in India’s election. This is more than 100 million more than in the 2009 parliamentary poll. Counting the ballots begins on May 16. The results are due to be announced on the same day. Voting is spread over five weeks, across the country.

Candidates with criminal backgrounds

Activist groups say that India’s voters have too often been faced with choosing between several such candidates, so, for the first time in a general election, a “None of the Above” option appears on the ballot papers and electronic voting machines.

Alcohol and drugs as bribes to voters: political parties in India, critics say, commonly hand out alcohol and even prescription medication. The Election Commission monitors production, storage and distribution in an attempt to curb abuses.

Traditional cash

Money talks, and suitcases or carloads of it (past examples) shout power; handouts in exchange for support in this election are also under surveillance, not only by stationary monitoring teams but mobile squads, too. Plus, government financial intelligence units electronically track suspicious cash flows.

These are just some of the reasons this election was planned to happen in phases: so that police forces can be deployed in strategic concentrations to keep order.

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