UK elections, an unreal experience for Indian citizens

UK elections, an unreal experience for Indian citizens 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.