So you’re off to India. Well done! I’m sure you’ve done your research about travel, visas, and vaccines. You rival the Gates Foundation on your malaria know-how. I bet you’ve even thought about travel medical insurance, if you’ve not got a plan already. The weather may be a little warm, but hey, baby, it’s been a cold winter, and you’re ready for the heat.
Did you forget about the elections?
Travellers often forget to research politics before heading to anywhere-but-here, because one shouldn’t discuss politics in polite company. Whilst one may politely avoid politics at dinner parties, it’s a good idea to understand what’s happening. Knowing the name of Senor [Bad Guy] or United [Terrorist Party] can help you make the informed decision to get the heck out of dodge before things get ugly. Understanding what political parties stand for, and knowing what their flags look like can be an invaluable resource that saves time when it’s hitting the fan.
India’s national elections are the largest on the planet. This year 814 million voters will participate in an election in which 543 parliament seats are up for grabs. 11 million government workers will oversee 1.7 million electronic voting machines, and the €465 million price tag will cover administrative support via plane, train, automobile, camel, boat, mule and elephant.
Major traditional players include the ruling Ghandi party and the Hindu nationalist party, neither of which have enough clout for a clear-cut win, opening up space for new parties and players, including serious contenders opposing anti-corruption and the colourful head of ‘None of the Above,’ the eunuch Ramesh Kumar Lili.
With half of the Indian population under 25 and a traditionally strong turnout by the nation’s poor, anything can happen. Elections run between 7 April and 12 May, with results expected on 16 May.
This week the Common Man Party (Aam Aadmi, AAP) and the anti-corruption outfit Bharatiya Janata (BJP) exchanged slogans, rocks and water cannons.
Preparing for travel may be as simple as reading the headlines of a local paper online for a week before hitting the road. Complicated or dangerous places require a bit more effort than restaurant reviews and the weather. Even residents of milquetoast denizens (O Canada!) appreciate the spark of recognition-commentary unnecessary-when local politics come up.
If you’re in India, you won’t be able to get away from the hew-haw: the Indian elections will be nation-wide. Make sure you prepare yourself for reactions to campaigns or results. Political supporters ride waves of optimism and expectation, and respond to negative decisions with varying degrees of violence. Prepare yourself fully insurance-wise, depending upon your destination: medical evacuation, acts of war and terrorism, kidnap and ransom.
Not up to it?
I hear Canada’s lovely this time of year.