5 reasons that make Lok Sabha elections of 2014 a special one

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India, the world's biggest democracy, will go to its 16th general election in another few months. This is not a big phenomenon for the country itself but for the entire world, which regards the massive experiment with democracy as a mind-boggling exercise. The Election Commission of India has informed that 788 million people will vote in the 2014 national elections, an electorate which is more than double the population of the US.

However, the election of 2014 is significant not only in terms of the gigantic numbers but also for a various number of reasons. It is one of those elections where just parties won't fight. In this edition, the common man will have a much bigger say apart from just casting his/her ballot. The 2014 elections will be indirect democracy in form, but direct democracy in spirit.

Let us look at five key factors that will decide the 2014 national polls.

1. Leadership: Unlike in 2004 or 2009, the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 will see leadership as a major issue. The election this time is being projected more as a presidential contest where individual faces take prominence over the party.

In 2009, the two national parties, the Congress and BJP went to the polls under the leadership of two old guards, namely, Manmohan Singh and Lal Krishna Advani, respectively. This time, both have been eclipsed and youth leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi have replaced them, respectively. We even have another young leader in Arvind Kejriwal rising to the occasion just in time.

2014 LS poll will be indirect democracy in form but direct democracy in spirit

2. Youth: The 2014 polls will also be the election dominated by the youth. We have seen how various parties in the country have stressed the youth as a crucial part of their preparations for the big polls. Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal have been darlings of the youth because of their anti-status quo stand while the Congress has been forced to bring Rahul Gandhi in the front despite the leader's mediocre show in politics so far. Regional parties like the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party have also tried to include the youth factor in their politics so that their prospects in the 2014 elections get a boost.

In 2014, first-time voters will make up almost one-third of the electorate and all parties are eyeing to get them into their folds for a common anti-incumbency factor has influenced them all, thanks mainly to the economy's under-performance and social decline.

3. Corruption: This is considered to be another decisive factor in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. We have seen how governments have tumbled in various states in India over the last few years after public representatives have indulged in corrupt practices. Even a 10-year-old prime minister in Manmohan Singh became an indirect casualty of the UPA government's failure to curb a high level of corruption. So was a 15-year-old chief minister in Sheila Dikshit.

The common people of India have grown a strong distaste of the corruption rampant in the high offices of the polity and have expressed their disgust through outlets provided by crusaders like Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.

In the 2014 polls, they are expected to give even a more decisive mandate on the issue and send a strong message to the future power-holders at the national level. The role of the media in this crucial transformation can't be ignored either. Ever since the beginning of the decline of the UPA II in its very second year when the Commonwealth Games scam surfaced, the aam aadmi (common man) have only grown more and more restless to clean up the system.

4. Economy: India's economy has seen a slide during the UPA II rule. Inflation, particularly, could be a big factor in the next big polls. The common man has been suffering because of inflation and the consequences could be seen in the recent state elections. Whoever comes to power this year will have a herculean task in rectifying the situation and drive the economy towards an improved goal. Executing reforms is the order of the day but how will that million-dollar job be executed is a difficult question to answer, even for the best of economic experts. For in India, economic and political reality don't go hand in hand.

5. Regional parties:
They will continue to gain strength in Indian politics, despite the rise of Narendra Modi. Most say the decline of the Congress and the BJP is responsible for this. But more than that, the rise of the regional parties have been made more possible by the deepening of the democracy (economically and politically) in India.

Many states in India have begun to script tales of unprecedented economic development, making the political forces in those regions more weighty and powerful. Even in national parties like the BJP, the regional spread of the power is visible when a Shivraj Singh Chouhan or Raman Singh is regarded as a alternative to Narendra Modi, which shows that the political power-centre in India is becoming a more horizontal structure than a vertical one and this is made possible because of economic resurgence.

The same applies to chief ministers from opponent parties who are becoming more assertive politically because of an economic turnaround. Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa are some the regional leaders who can be cited as examples. When we add the factor of social empowerment with the story of economic resurgence, the claim of many of the regional leaders become all the more powerful.

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