General elections are underway. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been in power for two consecutive terms and will seek a re-election. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is sniffing an opportunity because of the various scams during the UPA regime and high / persistent inflation. Regional satraps are also trying to roll out a Third Front. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a new entrant, also hopes to repeat its success in the Delhi elections in the national level.
Historically low voter turnout
Democracy is "government of the people, by the people and for the people". Voters decide who will represent them and in what form. Despite this, the voting percentage has been historically low in India. It has hovered around the 45% mark in the first two elections in 1952 and 1957.
This went up to 64% in 1984 elections (held after Indira Gandhi's assassination) and has again fallen to below 60%.
Election Commission of India, Statistical Reports
With an electorate size of 71.4 crore (larger than the electorate of the EU and US combined), the 2009 general elections in India were the largest democratic election in the world to date. However, only 58% voters turned out.
India's rank is pretty low in voter turnout (141 among 169 countries), according to a report prepared by Rafael López Pintor, Maria Gratschew and Kate Sullivan.
The report named "Voter Turnout Rates from a Comparative Perspective" compares polling rates from 1945-2001 across the world.
Youth hold the key
Over 65% of India's population is under 35 years of age. Data suggests that first-time voters in India (in the 18-23 age group) account for 15% of the total electorate (12 crore of the total 79 crore).
Why is it important to vote
Since the 1989 general elections, no single party has got the majority and all governments have been coalition governments. An unstable government in 2014 will have an impact on economic prospects and credit rating.
Standard & Poor's (world's biggest rating agency) placed India's rating outlook to a negative in April 2012, warning of a one-in-three chance of a downgrade to junk (non-investment grade) status over the next 24 months. India is at the cusp of investment grade rating (BBB-). Elections are a key credit event for India. A fractured mandate will probably lead to a downgrade.
In November 2013, S&P said, "The negative outlook indicates that we may lower the rating to speculative grade next year if the government that takes office after the general elections does not appear capable of reversing India's low economic growth."
Downgrade will reduce foreign investments, increase cost of funds for corporates, lead to job losses, reduce increments and bonuses. This would also hamper new job creation.
So, it's important to go out and vote.
Full Coverage: My India My Vote
Views expressed by the author are personal.