India’s general election: All you need to know

Voting in India’s six-week election begins on Friday (Apr 19), with 968 million people eligible to cast their ballots in the world’s biggest democratic vote.

AFP explains how the poll is conducted and what is likely to happen:


All Indian citizens aged 18 and above are eligible to vote – that is 968 million people, according to the election commission.

Turnout during the last national elections was more than 67 per cent, with nearly 615 million people casting a ballot.

India uses electronic voting machines that allow for faster counting of ballots.

The election commission says there is no way to connect to the machines remotely and no way to compromise the results.

Election officials travel by foot, road, trains, helicopters, boats, and occasionally camels and elephants to set up polling stations in remote locations.

They are sometimes accompanied by security forces in areas with a history of insurgent violence.


The sheer number of voters means that every time India holds a national election, it marks the largest exercise of the democratic franchise in human history.

A total of 15 million people will work the polls, including people temporarily assigned from elsewhere in the civil service.

Complicating the challenge are electoral laws requiring that each voter is no more than 2km away from a polling booth.

During the last election in 2019, for example, a polling booth was set up for a single voter living deep inside a forest in the western state of Gujarat.

Organisers say it is impossible to operate the 1.05 million polling stations needed around the country on a single day.

To ease the immense logistical burden, voting is staggered over six weeks starting from Apr 19.

Local weather, religious festivals, farm harvests and school terms are also taken into account to make sure voters in each corner of India can go to the polls at the most convenient date.


Election and campaign spending has grown in tandem with India’s booming economy, now the fifth-largest in the world after overtaking former colonial master Britain in 2022.

An estimated US$8.7 billion was spent by organisers, political parties and candidates in 2019, according to a report by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS).

Around a quarter of that figure came in the form of cash payments made directly to voters by candidates in an attempt to sway their decision, the report said.

The same think tank told Indian media in February that it forecast spending to exceed US$14.2 billion for this year’s contest.

That figure is almost on par with political spending in the United States for the 2020 congressional and presidential elections.

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