Learning English - Words in the News
23 April, 2004 - Published 14:05 GMT
Polls have opened in Indian national elections with over 670 million people voting in four main phases ending on 10 May. The nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which leads the ruling coalition is expected to emerge as the biggest party. This report from David Bamford:
With its unmatched electorate of 670 million people, the Indian election is the world's largest democratic exercise. Forty political parties are taking part, many of them with only regional power bases, but still nationally significant for all that.
The outgoing government is a coalition of twenty-two of these parties, but the dominant force among them, the BJP, is feeling bullish. Its 79 year old leader, the prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, is calling for what would amount to a political revolution in India - a BJP overall majority.
Mr Vajpayee called this election five months early because, he says, there's a strong feel-good mood in today's India. The economic boom, he says, is not just a matter of impressive growth statistics but of real improvements in the lives of the landless poor. That's disputed by the BJP's main rival, the Congress Party. Congress, built on a heritage of secularism and socialism, sees itself as the real champions of the poor. But the BJP, once seen as a bastion of exclusively Hindu nationalism, has moved to the centre and has taken advantage of recent disarray within the Congress party.
With the voting process spread over the next three weeks, Indians must wait until mid-May to know each party's current electoral strength.
David Bamford, BBC