UK elections, an unreal experience for Indian citizens

Last Updated: Thursday, May 6, 2010 - 21:09

London: For Indian citizens, who are used
to the heat and dust, loud sloganeering and the cut and thrust
of Indian politics, a general election in the United Kingdom
can be an unreal experience.

You don`t have to be a British citizen to vote here.
Britain has a unique rule that allows citizens from all
Commonwealth countries residing here to vote.

Thousands of migrants, professionals and students who
hold Indian passports cast their vote along with over 44
million voters in today`s elections to elect 649 MPs in the
House of Commons.

When corespondents visited a polling booth, there
was no leaflets, no policemen, no agents of candidates.
At polling booth, unlike in India, there was no queue
or noise.

A retired IAS official from Madhya Pradesh, who has
been an observer in many elections in India, and was on a
visit here, was struck by contrast with elections in India.
Compared with India, the level of debate and the sheer
scale of the electoral exercise is different.

Numbers of voters in constituencies are in the
thousands and many MPs win or lose by a margin of a few
hundred votes.

Campaigning has been very quiet by Indian standards,
as actor Sanjay Dutt remarked when he came along to canvass
votes for Labour candidate Keith Vaz in Leicester.

For Dutt, who has been in the thick of Samajwadi Party
politics in Lucknow, campaigning here was an eye-opener.

The campaign mainly has been personal, door-to-door,
through leaflets and candidates knocking on people`s doors to
seek support.

Compared to the two previous two general elections,
this election has been unique and historic mainly because of
the three television debates.

The debates electrified politics, drew in young voters
and turned it into a three-horse race between Labour,
Conservative and the Liberal Democrats.

But, people in India may well find the results
familiar -- if the election results lead to a hung parliament
-- as the country has been in a prolonged phase of coalition
politics.

Party strategists here are already talking the
language better known in Indian politics: coalition
government, alliance partners, minority government, common
minimum programme.

By Friday morning, final results will be
out and people will come to know if British politics ? so far
dominated by the Labour and Conservative parties ? is heading
the India way.

The two officials were happily chatting away and
confirmed that the turnout had been low so far, but hoped more
voters would turn up after office hours.

Polling stations opened at 7 am local time and the
voters have until 10 pm to exercise their franchise,
By all accounts, this is the most tightly contested
election since the Second World War, but the contest is mostly
at the level of ideas, policies and past record.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, May 6, 2010 - 21:09

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