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Waiting for 16 May 2014

Tomorrow is a big day. It would be a day marked in the history of India and a turning point in Indian politics. After a lengthy 9-Phase election, counting happens tomorrow - all the epithets like world's largest democracy, largest electorate, just a 100 million short of the combined population of US & Europe at this moment have been trumpeted again and again.

Still, we need to keep the numbers in mind.

  • The number of Indians who were eligible to vote were 814.5 million. 
  • Of these 66.38% or 551.3 million people have voted (including yours truly, exercising my right to vote in the fifth election since 2006). 
  • Our votes have been recorded in 1.4 million electronic voting machines, which will reveal the numbers tomorrow. 
For more of these numbers you can refer this comprehensive page on Indian General Elections, 2014 over at wikipedia. This is a big enough spectacle to attract the attention of a large part of the planet.

Running around right now are excitement, jubilation, frustration, even fear and all other kind of emotions that can be associated with such a large, significant event. It can be felt most strongly on social media. As a long-time supporter of Narendra Modi, the Prime Ministerial candidate of NDA, I share the apprehension of many others like me - what if, due to any of the myriad reasons abounding, as rumours and conspiracy theories, Modi does not win a mandate to form government? Will he be joined by a minimum of 272 MPs from his own coalition in the parliament, who will support him to form a stable government and allow him to lead the nation for the next 5 years.

However, I will let that story go by, since there are already too many people talking and discussing about it. What I am more interested ever since Modi was announced at the PM nominee is this - how will social groups identified as traditional vote banks vote this time? Most of them were formed as reactions in fear, anger - the lower castes clustering together to survive against the oppression of upper castes, several others clinging to their social groups for the sake of identity and any advantage this will bestow them, the muslims forming a separate votebank, ghettoed together based on the fear of the bogie called hardline Hindu extremism or Hindutva.

Will all these groups stick to supporting their traditional netas and their parties? Or will they break away and vote differently this time. This is what I am most interested to know from the outcome of this election.

Over the last 10 years, people have gradually evolved from being plain recipients of ideas and information from intellectuals through the media, to sharing their own ideas with others and discussing each others perspectives. The ability to influence peer groups has gradually increased. These people, who are normal Indians, have discovered the ability to sift the truth from the lies peddled by the media and academia, and in turn question the veracity of such false claims. A large percentage of these people are young, educated and comfortable with using technology. And they are no more ready to vote along caste or religious lines. Armed with information, they are even ready to debate with their own family and friends and convince them to vote sensibly.

The second and most important factor is - we have in Modi, a leader who is able to identify himself with the people and the people are also able to accept him as one of them, a leader from among their own ranks. Modi has also made effective use of technology effectively to his advantage, probably for the first time by any leader. He has also disregarded physical exertion and has valiantly traveled across the country, meeting people and speaking to them about issues directly affecting them. He has traveled a whopping 300000 km and addressed a humongous 440 rallies. At least 100 million people would have directly listened to him speak. They have found hope in him, that he can solve their problems and provide them with opportunities, which the others have not been able to provide. This new change in attitude of a large number of people, has surely toppled a lot of caste-based arithmetic. What is the extent of this change would make for interesting study.

A lot of people hope that he is the decisive leader India needs now. Our thirst for strong leadership has at last found refuge in Modi. However, until the numbers trickle in concretely, nothing can be claimed confidently.

Whatever happens tomorrow, India would never be the same again.

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