Indian Election Series launched at the State Library of Victoria

On Wednesday, October 31 the Australia India Institute launched the Indian Election Series with a panel discussion at the State Library of Victoria.

The Series, a partnership between the Aii and the Melbourne School of Government’s Election Watch program, will tap into expert insights to provide analysis of the world’s largest election.

By the time the final ballots are cast in May 2019 the Indian Election Series will have delivered a range of activities and published works, both in India and Australia, and encourage collaboration between researchers and journalists from the two countries. In doing so, the Series aims to raise the quality of public discussion around key policy issues during this election cycle and deepen the understanding of the challenges shared between our two nations.

Wednesday’s launch event was preceded by the publication of an explainer on Indian elections by Professor Robin Jeffrey. The article, co-published by Election Watch and Pursuit magazine, marvels at the efficiency of the mechanism of Indian democracy – in which more than 800 million people are eligible to vote and the government has a duty to ensure every adult citizen is enrolled.

The article provided a perfect backgrounder for the launch event, which featured a three-member panel made up of Professor Robin Jeffrey (ANU), Dr Usha Manchanda (Deakin University) and Pradeep Taneja (University of Melbourne) and was expertly moderated by journalist and broadcaster, Ali Moore.

The discussion opened with an analysis of the achievements and shortfalls of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government since its election in 2014. The panel described extraordinary Modi’s ability to rally support via social media and suggested that the 2019 election is likely to again turn on the use of platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to convince voters.

Panellists then turned to India’s economy, which has continued to expand rapidly over the past four years. However, doubt was expressed about whether the headline economic growth rate – the fastest of any major economy – had proportionally translated to more jobs. This, it was suggested, could prove a stumbling block for the government.

Despite this, all panellists concurred that the BJP is likely to return as the single largest party in 2019, although will likely lose some seats. The fact that the opposition Indian National Congress is currently so divided was offered as the main reason for this.

In closing, one panellist remarked that results in the superstate of Uttar Pradesh, home to over 200 million people, could well determine the success of the BJP in 2019.