" A land of wonders", enthused Marco Polo in the 13th century, and his observation is no less true today. India is the seventh largest country in the world, with the second largest population, a rising economic giant. a nuclear power, "the world's most ancient surviving civilization, with unbroken continuity, stretching back into pre-history"( Michael Wood's preface to India), and the world's largest democracy and it is holding another election.
There are 714 million registered voters.....43 million more than in the last election of 2004. There are 6,500,00 electoral workers, 1,368, 430 tamper proof electronic voting machines (hello U.S.A.), 828,804 polling stations, 4,617 candidates, 543 seats, 300 political parties, 30 main languages in 20 states with 6 main religions and except for a few months during the "emergency" of 1974, has held free, fair and regular elections, since modern India emerged out of the turbulence of 1947.
India is polylingual, secular and pluralist. It has 15 official languages and 844 different dialects. Hindi is spoken by about 45% of the population and is the national language and English has been retained as a language for official communication. Other languages include Assamese, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati,Telegu, Marathi, Rajastani, Tamil and Bengali. Most of these languages belong to two families, Aryan and Dravidian. The five southern states belong to the Dravidian and most of the languages spoken in the north are of the Aryan family.
The Republic of India is legally a secular state, but 80% of its people are Hindus, a religion/ philosophy/ way of life that stretches back continuously for over 5,000 years. It has always welcomed and accepted others into its fold.....here are the words of the 14th century poet, Amir Khusro. a Muslim of Turkic ancestry, who wrote in Persian and "who counted himself to be the luckiest man alive to have been born in India and to have India as his motherland"( Michael Wood) ......
How exhilarating is the atmosphere of India!
There cannot be a better teacher than the way of the life of its prople.
If any foreigner comes by, he will have to ask for nothing,
Because they treat him as their own,
Play an excellent host and win his heart,
And show him how to smile like a flower.
Muslims, the second largest such population in the world, make up about 12%. Sikhs are about 2%, Christians about 2%, Jains, and Budhists, original religions of India are about .7% each, Zoroastrians about.01% and Jews and others make up the rest. Four of the world's main religions have their origins in India......Hinduism, Jainism, Budhism and Sikhism. It is generally accepted that Judaism and Christianity arrived in India before they arrived in Europe. All were welcomed and none were forced to convert, Here is a song that emphasised that...." Hinduism is the law of life, not a dogma; its aim is not to create a creed but a character and its goal is to achieve perfection through varied spiritual knowledge which rejests nothing and yet refines everything, through continuous testing............He who seeks to convert another to his own faith offends against his own soul and the will of God and the law of humanity.......Song of the Hindu...5085BC from Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan Gidwani.
The election is to be held in five stages, which began on April 16, and ends on May 13, 2009. The main poolitical parties have formed three main pre-elections coalitions. There is the Union Progressive Alliance, made up of Indian National Congress,( led by Sonia Gandhi, with Manmohan Singh as its candidate for Prime Minister), and at least 13 other parties. Then there is the National Democratic Alliance, led by Lal Krishna Advani, with at least 8 other parties and the Third Front made up Left Front and at least 12 other parties. There are also scores of others, mainly regional parties. There are 543 seats in the Lok Sabha( lower house). In the last election, the UPA won 35.4% of the votes and 214 seats and the NDA won 33.3% and 181 seats. The UPA was able to govern with the help of regional parties. It is expected that the UPA with its allies will emerge as the winners but not with a majority. To boost its chances it has bought the rights to the Oscar winning soundtrack Jai Ho from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The song title Jai Ho means Let there be victory, and Congress is hoping that this popular song will galvanize the masses. When Sonia Gandhi released the party's manifesto, it chose as its slogan Aam Admi Ke Badthe Kadam, Har Kadam Par Bharat Buland, which translates to " The common man moves forward, And with his every step India prospers" The BJP and its NDA partners responded by choosing the somewhat drool, Kushal Neta, Nimayak Sarkar.....Able Leader, Decisive Government".
The stage is set for this remarkable exercise in democracy. Jai Hind!!!