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Video by Natacha BUTLER , Julien FOUCHET

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-07

Voting started in two Indian states on Monday morning in the first of nine stages due to give the country a new parliament on May 16. FRANCE 24 reporters took the train to Assam, where the voters’ mood reflected the nationwide thirst for change.

The red carriages of the Radjani Express snake their way from New Delhi to the north-eastern state of Assam, one of the first places to go to the polls in India’s general election.

Train workers and passengers are deciding who they will vote for. Over the next five weeks, 815 million voters will join them to elect India’s new parliament.

“I’m a very poor man, I’d like to see some changes – everything is getting expensive, the price of food and vegetables is very high,” Sant Lal told FRANCE 24.

He earns 70 euros a month delivering meals to hundreds of passengers, often working 24-hour shifts.

In India’s slowing economy, crippled by unemployment and corruption, many are struggling to make ends meet.

“People want some drastic change in the political structure so that common people will benefit," said passenger G. Adhikyar. "People are saying this government is not doing anything so the only alternative is the BJP. It is the second major party in India.”

The main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party is the frontrunner in the election race. Its leader, Narendra Modi, is tipped to become India’s new prime minister if the BJP and its allies secure a majority of the 543 parliamentary seats.

Protest vote

But not everyone's convinced by what India’s main parties are offering. Another passenger, Samir Jain, dreams of a fairer India for his two children.

“I want to vote for AAP party,” the computer programmer told FRANCE 24. “Both the parties, Congress and BJP, are the same, which is why we want something different.”

The AAP was formed after protests against corruption scandals three years ago and quickly became the third political force in the country.

Another type of protest vote could emerge among disgruntled Indian voters in this election: for the first time, ballot papers will offer them a final option under the names of candidates – “None of the above”.


Date created : 2014-04-07


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