General elections will have several historic firsts
India's April 7 to May 12 national vote will feature a set of historic firsts — from numbers to campaigning guidelines — heralding a new electoral paradigm for the world's largest democracy.
With an ever-growing number of voters, 814 million at the last count, it will be the largest election anywhere. There are 100 million new voters this poll season, more than Turkey's population.
Never before have the general elections been held in nine phases. Around 12,000 non-resident Indians registered as voters will be able to cast their ballots this year. Voters will be allowed to choose a "None of the Above" option for the first time, although this would not be used to decide the winner and loser.
For the first time, the parliamentary polls will carry guidelines on social media campaigning, such as Facebook. For example, candidates will have to disclose their social media accounts by filing affidavits in "Form-26".
India's 2014 ballot battle is set to run through the social media world, which will likely shape voting in 160 of the 543 Parliament seats, making Facebook and Twitter users the nation's newest voting bloc, according to two recent surveys.
Contestants would also have to provide records of expenditure on campaigning on the internet. Those who wish to put out television ads will also need "pre-certification" from the Election Commission, the poll regulator.
As part of its transparency measures, the EC has also drawn up a confidential list of seats with the highest chances of use of black money.
The EC has, for the first time, also released a set of guidelines for poll manifestos, which prohibit parties from making promises that could "vitiate the electoral process" or exert "undue influence". Promises need to be reasonable and realistic. For example, parties would be required to explain how they intend to fund freebies and sops.