Ananya Mukherjee Reed is a professor at York University in Toronto. She is currently spending her sabbatical in Bangalore, India. You can read her blog Eye on India here.
Writing a piece "How is India?" for CommonDreams, she puts into context and provides a valuable background to the election presently underway in what is the largest democracy in the world:
"How is India?" asked an erudite friend of mine from North America soon after I reached India last December.
How indeed? I write this piece as India goes to the polls: a mammoth process involving 714 million voters is about to unfold over the next one month. The polity looks fractured as never before. Each state - and India has 35 of them - has its own political dynamic shaped by a complex gamut of regional political parties. Relentless opportunism and political ambition, bolstered often by massive private wealth appears to have given rise to a multiplicity of candidates and parties who are able to cull a platform sometimes out of thin air, or even worse, by fuelling caste or ethnic conflict or abusing divisive ‘local' issues. So deep is the fracture this time, that it looks like 543 discrete elections are being held for the 543 parliamentary seats. No party is able to shape or capture the national imagination, as it were.
Underneath this fractured polity, lies of course, a deeply exclusionary and unequal material reality. Some 200 million are chronically hungry, 90 percent of the workforce have no option but informal work with abysmal wages and no security; 80 percent live under $2 a day; 70 percent depend on agriculture for their livelihood; and so on."