The Editors


Dates: Five phases: April 16, 22, 23, and 30; May 7 and 13, 2009

Results:  May 16, 2009

Electorate: 714 million

Election expenses: Rs. 1,120 Crores (Approx. US$225 million)

Polling stations:  828,804

Electronic voting machines: 138430

Total Seats: 543

Reserved Scheduled caste seats: 84

Reserved Scheduled Tribes seats: 45

Non-reserved seats (which can include scheduled caste or tribe): 414


The 15th Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) elections were initially supposed to be a two-party (or, more accurately, a two-front) affair between the centrist, Congress-led, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the right-wing, BJP-led, National Democratic Alliance (NDA).  However, erosions in both fronts had occurred late last summer and fall of 2008; in the manoeuvring to the election, the Left parties, CPI and CPM, and two regional parties, TDP in Andhra and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, joined to form the Third Front. For most of the last 5 years, the Left had supported the UPA, until it deserted over the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal in July 2008, while TDP and AIADMK had been part of the NDA.


More recently, further splits have led to almost a four-cornered contest, when Lalu Yadav’s RJD, Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJD, and Mulayam Singh’s SP, left the UPA to contest the elections jointly in the populous states of U.P and Bihar, which together account for about 30% of the total seats in Parliament.  At the same time, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s BJD defected from the NDA to the Third Front.  Sharad Pawar’s NCP, while still nominally part of the UPA, has not hesitated to hobnob with the Third Front leading observers to doubt whether NCP will support Congress in the event of a hung Parliament. 


Frontline magazine recently commented that “the unravelling of existing alliances and the formation of new ones make the outcome of the elections unpredictable.”  A feature of the polling that has taken place so far in some states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, where the Maoists have a presence, is the armed attacks by their cadres on poll officials and peasants wishing to exercise their franchise.  These actions are nothing but ‘social banditry’ aimed at denying the poor of their fundamental right to vote.


With the exception of one very important issue, communal politics based on religious identity, there is not much difference, despite rhetoric, in terms of foreign and economic policy between the contenders.  INSAF Bulletin has long contended that communalism, exemplified by the BJP and the various fronts of the Sangh Parivar, represent the greatest danger to the future of a secular India.  Defeating the BJP and the NDA thus becomes an overriding priority, if India is to survive, not as a reactionary Hindu rashtra but as a progressive, democratic, secular Republic.    

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