The world has watched transfixed as India votes in the largest election in history with more than a tenth of the globe’s population jostling to elect the man who will lead one of the world’s most powerful nations for the next five years.
The polarizing nature of the main candidates, the sheer scale of the poll, the lunch packets and drams of whiskey, and assorted other colourful intrigues have made headlines around the world.
But what motivates more than 800 million people – from India’s “burgeoning” Middle Class to its marginalized rural masses – to vote?
Writer, historian and leading India authority Patrick French is set to discuss that very question alongside Dr Mukulika Banerjee, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics during a debate at London’s Asia House on 30 May.
The duo will be joined by fellow author, economist and Labour peer Meghnad Desai and journalist Salil Tripathi, director of policy of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, for the debate, titled ‘Why Do Indians Vote? Democracy in India’.
The basis for the debate is Dr Banerjee’s book ‘Why India Votes’ – compiled prior to the 2009 Indian general election – and based on a survey of voters across eleven states: from Uttar Pradesh through Delhi to West Bengal; from Chattisgargh through Madhya Pradesh to Tamil Nadu.
‘Why India Votes’ provides a fascinating insight into the motivations of voters from myriad social, cultural and economic backgrounds.
The debate will also explore what makes the Indian general election such an extraordinary spectacle, its significance in the context of a fast-shifting global power structure and how it differs from polls in established, ‘mature’ democracies such as Britain and the United States.
‘Why Do Indians Vote? Democracy in India’ is part of the prelude to the Asia House Festival of Asian Literature which gets underway 06 May.
The Festival will be opened by Hanif Kureishi and this year features a number of leading British Asian writers, from Booker nominees Romesh Gunasekera and Tash Aw to Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie as well as bright young talents such as Xiaolu Guo and Pakistani-born Roopa Farooki.
Following on from the hugely popular debate on ‘Identity’ at the 2013 edition of the Festival, journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera will chair a panel discussion on British Asian humour during this year’s event.
The discussion will feature Saurabh Kakkar, head of comedy at the BBC; comic Shazia Mirza and Anil Gupta, writer and producer behind ‘Goodness Gracious Me’, ‘The Kumars at Number 42’ and ‘Citizen Khan’.
For more information and listings, visit www.asiahouse.org.