The Biggest Election in History Begins as India Goes to the Polls

Published 19 April 2024

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the nation's Independence Day ceremony, photo credit @T Narayan/Bloomberg

It is estimated that just over 50% of the world’s population will go to the ballot box over the course of 2024, the ‘year of elections.’ No election will be bigger than India’s, which begins on 19 April and spans several weeks - with an estimated electorate of over 950,000,000, it is set to be the largest exercise of democracy in history.

India’s population of over 1.4 billion makes it the world’s most populous country and democracy. In the last General Election, in 2019, 910,000,000 Indians cast their vote, and with a youthful, growing population and increasing female participation in politics, that number is set to increase in 2024. Like many Commonwealth countries, India has a Westminster-style first-past-the-post parliamentary system, with multiple candidates, backed by different parties, contesting each of the lower house (Lok Sabha)’s 543 constituencies.

This may be surprising to people in Britain, given the size of India’s population, as this number is fewer than the 650 seats in the UK House of Commons. The result is that some parliamentary constituencies in India have an electorate of millions - though others in rural areas number in the tens of thousands.

Popular enthusiasm for democracy in India can be seen in turnouts - the last General Election in 2019 saw a turnout of over 67% and in recent regional elections turnouts of over 70% have been recorded in some of the larger states.

BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which stands for Bharatiya Janata Party, (‘Indian People’s Party’), will be aiming for a third term in power, following election triumphs in 2014 and 2019. BJP’s popularity has been fuelled by India’s growing economic prosperity, reflected in the manifesto's focus on issues such as job creation and improved infrastructure.

Prime Minister Modi’s leadership is also a major factor in BJP’s success. According to Morning Consult Pro’s Global Leader Approval Rating Tracker, as of March 2024 PM Modi currently enjoys by far the highest approval ratings of any world leader - 75%, well ahead of second-placed Javier Milei of Argentina, on 66%.

Forecasts show that the leading opposition will come from a super-party called - appropriately enough - INDIA, a broad coalition of mainly centre-left regional and national parties. INDIA is led by Indian National Congress, the major force in Indian politics for decades before and after independence until the 2014 General Election. With family roots tracing back to those days of Independence, Sonia Gandhi serves as Parliamentary Chairperson of the Congress party while her son Rahul is also a prominent serving member of the Lok Sabha.

Regardless of the outcome, what is certain is that the 2024 General Election will be an impressive showcase of democracy, 15,000,000 polling and security staff will be operating and protecting 1.5 million polling booths, with the aim of reaching every corner of this vast country. As the UK anticipates its own elections before 28 January 2025, we, along with all our Commonwealth friends will be wishing parliamentarians in India every success for transparent, inclusive and efficient elections. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK branch is looking forward to building bonds with the new parliament when the Lok Sabha returns following the elections.

For more information on election planning for parliaments check out this guide available on the CPA Secretariat’s website. It contains lots of best practice from across the Commonwealth family: