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India's Change Election

Speaker: Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
March 26, 2014

More than eight hundred million Indians are expected to cast their vote in a phased general election beginning next month that many polls predict will significantly reshape the country's parliament. There are three things to know about the largest exercise of democracy in world history, says Alyssa Ayres, CFR's senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia.

  • Coalitions Form the Government: Despite media coverage framing the election as a contest between opposing party leaders, Ayres says that "this is not a presidential-style election." Coalition governments have dominated the Indian parliament historically, and how smaller parties choose to ally in this election will matter.
  • Politics Have Shifted: The "language of politics in India has changed," explains Ayres. Instead of appeals to caste, religion, or ethnic identity, the focus this election cycle is on anticorruption and delivery of basic services like electricity, roads, and water.
  • It's the Economy: No matter who wins, the economy will have to take first priority, according to Ayres. Slowing growth, food price inflation, a weak rupee, and a forecasted rise in new workforce entrants are all at center stage. "The next Indian government will need to tackle all these issues to get back on the path of high growth again," she says.

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