General elections are underway in India, but do voters even know how to evaluate the performance of a federal government?
The Indian Constitution provides for a division of powers between the federal and state governments, and arguably voters need to know who’s responsible for what to be able to decide who to vote for. For example, the central government is in charge of defense, foreign affairs, railways, banking, construction of national highways, and so on, while a state government is accountable for public order, police, public health and sanitation, and other areas.
However, it seems few Indians are aware of the distinction between the roles of the central and state governments. Behind this ignorance is perhaps the common notion that elections are mainly about politicians and parties, that voting is a “horserace” among parties, coalitions, and personalities. Surprisingly, even media coverage of the elections reflect this notion, which costs voters their voice and will in an electoral exercise.
When I asked random voters in Tipra Village in the Solan District of Himachal Pradesh, for StoriesAsia’s video series on the 2019 general elections in India, for The Diplomat, here’s what I found.