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How India’s massive 2019 election will work (qz.com)
130 points by yarapavan on Mar 25, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments

The mechanics of the actual election seem to be decent enough. But there is rampant vote buying in many areas. I've personally seen liquor handed out for votes. Money, clothing, and alcohol are commonly used to purchase votes in many rural areas. Last I heard, it cost something like like 1000-3000 RS ($15-40) per head in rural Andhra Pradesh.

FT article from 2014: https://www.ft.com/content/a9d35821-f2f1-3479-8082-2ce1e6fa7...

How do the people buying votes make sure that the voter is voting the way they want? Do they not have a secret ballot?

I've seen religious tactics applied effectively for this,

The potential voter is asked to swear over a religious artifact after receiving the money (bribe).

e.g. For Hindu voters, a plate with oil lamp, an idol, a mixture of auspicious powder is used.The voter should swear over it that they will vote for that particular candidate.

Elections are the main reason, politicians ensure religious superstitions flourish in India inspite of evil practices like casteism, sharia etc. Even when India's constitution is godless & secular (amended).

Thanks to really noble people behind India's constitution.

As an Indian who has worked extensively in multiple elections have "been there done that", let me tell everyone that above comment is completely ridiculous and devoid of any truth. It is not even a fringe phenomenon.

Let me answer the original question.

No one buys a vote in return of goodies. They buy "loyalty" vote is a consequence of that.

Each candidate appoints a booth level worker first. The booth level worker is in the inner circle of trust for the candidate and booth size is typically <1400 voters. Entire history of voting patterns of each booth is available publicly. A worker may handle multiple booths too.

The booth worker being a local already knows which way the winds are blowing and how to change their directions. For the poorest of poor he might offer cash and alcohol. For others he might offers government jobs, fake degrees, sex, licenses for businesses, shut eye approach towards illegal construction, protection from abusive husband and so on.

Once the voter buys in, he has to show absolute loyalty towards this candidate. He is expected to appear in rallies, at local speeches and even argue in favor of the candidate in market. Each person has enemies and in case Mr X appears to be saying unfavorable things in public someone will inform the booth level worker who will then show up at his house with goons.

You also need to understand secondary consequences of this sort of signaling. It means if a person was seen so actively working for Candidate X and if candidate Y wins, Candidate Y will not even help this person in future because obviously he was seen with Candidate X so often. (This can literally ruin people's lives from what I have seen). This also means there is zilch advantage for the person to backstab candidate X at the voting booth. (If you are married to her , you might as well have sex with her sort of thing). It is this phenomenon that eliminates back stabbing voters.

In my personal experience this soon reaches the level of lassie fair economics. At some point it pays lot more to simply sabotage the booth agent of your opponent instead of actually buying voters. If your prospective booth agent betrays you, you lose hundreds of votes. Just like voters even the booth agents are greedy. The candidate gives him lot of cash to distribute but sometimes he just keeps it to himself.

Part of the reason why BJP has done well in recent times despite spending less money than Congress is because BJP relies on its sister organization RSS which is a cadre based organization. They have pre-vetted individuals at every booth level whose loyalty is beyond doubt. The Congress party on other hand mostly relies on mercenary concept. They do a primary round of bidding where people who want their tickets tell how much money they can spend. The highest spender will then be given the ticket to fight elections. He has to donate 10% upfront to the party chief.


In my personal experience, with the exception of certain regions in most regions elections are pretty fair and are not determined by money. At least when it comes to Federal (central) elections. All candidates are aware of this fact. You might be able to gain additional 3% votes by sheer cash but you need to employ various other tactics to get more votes. As the middle class in India becomes larger and more aspirational the bids for votes change too. Even the poorest of poor now has electricity and hence correctly values 24x7 electricity above Rs 500 once in 5 years.

> At some point it pays lot more to simply sabotage the booth agent of your opponent instead of actually buying voters.

Could you please elaborate how after the booth agent is sabotaged, he changes the voters mindset or vote? I believe it is very difficult to actively do it i.e. tell the voters to vote for the opposite candidate. At the maximum it will be very passive i.e. he keeps the money to himself and simply not go to voters to work for his candidate.

Booth agents are sabotaged very early in the campaigning process. The most common scenario is where the booth agent will secretly contact the opposition candidate and continue to pretend to be loyal to his own master while deliberately feeding incorrect information. In many cases he will simply not spend the cash that was given to him to distribute among voters. In some cases he will deliberately ignore visiting the swing votes.

Isn't this very risky? There is a high chance that he will get caught. A smart politician would do recce to see if the money is distributed. What would happen if he is caught?

This is really close to the Roman concept of plebs and patricians, or patreons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patronage_in_ancient_Rome

That is an excellent observation. People and societies are more or less very similar all across the world. The details might vary but the main motivations are more or less same.

This is a complete fabrication. Never have I heard of this happening, let alone it being a major phenomenon anywhere.

I have heard from family members who were approached by party workers asking to swear on god to get money. But they refused. It doesn’t happen in rich and posh areas they target less developed uneducated neighborhoods.

There is no doubt in some remote corner of India some party worker might ask people to swear on their kids, gods and what not. But let me confirm that it is not even a phenomenon. Mostly figure of speech. OP used graphic details as if it is some cult practice "For Hindu voters, a plate with oil lamp, an idol, a mixture of auspicious powder is used."

Either the party worker has to be naive to believe that such ritual has any value or the people have to be completely stupid. Poor people are desperate and will happily take whatever money that comes their way and will not care too hoots about swearing on Gods. Remember if you can do a ritual to swear on God another one can invent a ritual to free you from that oath.

He is right about the oil lamp and the idol thought. When I said swear on god it’s on the idol.

But he is completely wrong to claim that is common or even a working solution.

I presume, most readers if HN would know Bangalore.

'Karnataka election 2018: Rider for freebies - swear in the name of god that you'd vote for me'[1]


I am not sure what your agenda is, but your response is disingenuous. You have taken a specific and rare incident which was reported for its "shock value" (it is quite easy in India to publish a story with an agenda) and have presented it in a manner which implies it is some sort of a norm.

While there certainly is corruption, given the size and scale of elections in India, it is laudable that things are conducted in a proper manner for the large part.

I don't understand why this is being down voted. The op is backing his argument with a link to national news paper and he is getting down voted. This post getting down voted is the proof of educated people still having caste feelings within them. Thanks to the Indian Constitution, without it most of population in India would never had education.

This is true. Especially in the slum area's this is very common. The voters are supposed to switch off the burning camper with their hand as a religious promise ritual.

The people who are given incentives are very poor and uninformed about the ways of politics. Ideally, they can either refuse the incentives or just get it and vote the way they want.

By human nature, they get a sense of obligation when they receive the incentives. They feel committed to vote for the party that provided the incentive. Even trying to convince them they don't have to, does not work. They feel the onus is on them to complete the "transaction" by casting the vote.

That said, this is more of issue in by-elections, where there is only one or a handful of constituencies and the politicians can focus on them.

When the election is state-wide or nation-wide, the major determining factor is still the popular sentiment towards the political parties in question (based on their track record in power, which of course is skewed by media).

Elections are a recurring event. I cannot prove it but it's behavioral training. People seem to vote for whoever gives them the best "incentive". I hesitate to call it a bribe because in other countries they call it "tax relief", "student loan forgiveness" etc.,

There are many academic studies on this exact topic. Two theories are given weight: 1) people feel a sense of obligation because they received something (the natural human tendency to repay debts) 2) being able to buy votes is a forward-looking signal that shows the party/candidate is serious and may be able to provide further benefits down the line.

Further, political operators can at least guarantee that they went to the polls. This way, they can influence turnout.

See https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/world-politics/artic...

I imagine it's more practical to try to 'get out the vote' without all the marketing in the middle, than try to bribe a person to vote against their interest.

It's a secret ballot but many people have phones.

The tradition in (parts of) Italy is similar:


This is why it is illegal to take pictures of your vote.

Capture your ballot with vote on the phone, then show it to dealer to receive bribe.

Banned a long time back. No cellphones are allowed.


They can't. It's a secret ballot.

Cell phone with camera?

My maid's family was bribed this way. They took the food and voted the way they wanted to anyway.

No one knows who you are once you're inside the voting booth :)

> No one knows who you are once you're inside the voting booth :)

Then how do you know who they voted for?! :)

A Bollywood movie, Newton (available for free to view on Amazon Prime Video), depicts plight of one such fictional instance of vote manipulation in India: https://www.amazon.com/Newton-Rajkummar-Rao/dp/B077MHZYDL

tldr A honest govt officer running a polling booth in an area under Naxal (communist separatists) influence grapples with corruption, deciet, hopelessness, manipulation, and hypocrisy.

Definitely the best movie I watched in 2018. I think it did a much better job of depicting life in India than any other movie I've ever seen. I recommended it to a couple of European friends who watched it with subs and they enjoyed it too.

Re: Life in India: Found this South Indian movie, Joker, to be quite excellent. https://www.amazon.com/Joker-Guru-Somasundaram/dp/B06XB79BVD

tldr https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joker_(2016_film)#Plot

For compare, articles say $2.4BN USD spent in 2016 Presidential Election, with 137.5MM voting. That's $17.45 per capita. But I don't know if I'd swing a vote for a single bottle of wine!

Indian voters don't swing their vote for the money. They know it's a secret ballot, pocket the money, and tell the buyer they voted for them.

BTW I wrote this about US election

What are the chances election campaigns become a thing of the past?

I know zero about politics but... why don't citizens get presented a list of what each candidate supports, where there is overlap between candidates, and where there is disagreement?

Why do candidates need to "spread the message" and "go on tour" and "win people over" when we as citizens are supposed to, at the root, be voting on what policies they believe in (which seems concrete + fact, instead of something like leaving a wooing/lasting impression with a speech/appearance)

> I know zero about politics but... why don't citizens get presented a list of what each candidate supports, where there is overlap between candidates, and where there is disagreement?

Who compiles that list, and on what information is it based?

> when we as citizens are supposed to, at the root, be voting on what policies they believe in

Well, for one thing, that's not what a lot of people (including the founders) think/thought voters are supposed to be voting on; representative democracy is not just a hack around the logistical impracticality of direct voting on all issues, but a means of selecting people with the skill and character to find good answers to questions that the electorate may not anticipate and most members would lack either the time or the skill to find a good answer even if they did have a direct vote.

> Who compiles that list, and on what information is it based?

A neutral third party (kind of like the federal reserve isn't supposed to be affiliated with any political party... or is this wildly inaccurate)

I'm pretty sure modern day politics are composed of 10-20 hard problems.

1. Providing quality of life for the poor/sick/elderly 1. Protecting citizens via military/war 1. Stances on drugs/drug related crimes 1. Economy wellness (stimulation/QE) 1. Education 1. Transportation 1. Energy/environment/climate change 1. Rights (gender, sexual preference, etc.)

> Well, for one thing, that's not what a lot of people (including the founders) think/thought voters are supposed to be voting on

Is that what you vote for? A politician is a figurehead in my eyes, and it is their job to carry out what they said they were going to (aka not change their policy after winning votes).

> Why do candidates need to "spread the message" and "go on tour" and "win people over" when we as citizens are supposed to, at the root, be voting on what policies they believe in (which seems concrete + fact, instead of something like leaving a wooing/lasting impression with a speech/appearance)

That assumes that citizens are supposed to be voting on policies. In our representative democracy, we vote on the people we want, not policies. The specific policies will be unrecognizable after they get through the process of political compromise. What people are really voting for is the person whose hand they want on the wheel.

The person that writes your list of descriptions of the candidates is now in control of who gets elected.

Also, people vote for politicians based on how the politician makes the voter feel about themselves. Many many many people vote against their economic self interest with full understanding that they are doing so. There is a lot more to who someone votes for than their list of policy proposals.

> Many many many people vote against their economic self interest with full understanding that they are doing so.

Can you give me an example? Do you mean top earners voting for democrat because democrats are typically seen as more empathetic in society?

Well, there are questions like:

-will the candidate follow the policies they claim to support?

-How will the candidate vote on issues not explicitly mentioned in pre-election material?

-How well can the candidate advocate for their positions?

-Does the candidate have enough political clout to make a difference?

So you have to consider things like character, experience and party membership in addition to the talking points.

> -will the candidate follow the policies they claim to support?

Candidates today who don't do this only run the risk of not being re-elected as their punishment, correct? Candidates aren't really held liable to their claims. What percentage of candidates end up having to flip stances on their claims due to external circumstances? What percentage of those claim stances get flipped?

> -How will the candidate vote on issues not explicitly mentioned in pre-election material?

Could we argue that 95% of issues could fall into 10-20 pillars and could be fleshed out up front? If not 95%, what percentage? It's impossible to forecast economic/environmental circumstances obviously (along with other countries having free will to do whatever they want, in context of military actions/reactions)

> How well can the candidate advocate for their positions?

Does this mean "how beefy is their resume/how qualified is the candidate"?

The real heros are Indian Election Workers and security personnel who travel to towns and villages far away from their homes and set up the elections and many times sleep on the floors of schools and offices to conduct these elections.

India could never be authoritarian for one simple reason its too damn diverse, a country that is contradictory to every definition of nation state exists because it has adopted democracy how ever imperfectly and mastered elections.

I am not sure about it can never be authoritarian. It went through an emergency situation, because the ruling part lost the election at the time. The current govt is whipping up mass hysteria, and might just succeed, based on what I see happening on the ground.

> India could never be authoritarian

Don't get complacent. The man in power has never lost an election, so I don't know if he knows how to lose with grace. What's more, he has very authoritarian tendencies, like intimidating the press[1].

[1] - https://thewire.in/media/punya-prasun-bajpai-abp-news-narend...

I mean... the whole point of a democracy is to protect against powerful people having "authoritarian tendencies", whatever that even really means

The Wire is a left-wing publication that routinely engages in propaganda.

The current government has not brought in any new laws or regulations on press. India never had the journalistic freedom like in west.

The opponent of current PM is a political royalty of India. They are the ones who dont know how to live without power. Indira Gandhi suspended Indian democracy and assumed the titled of dictator for few years when she lost an election. She also jailed many people including many political leaders that are still active today. Her son engaged in forced sterelizations and another son brought in a bill to kill the press called "defamation bill". Luckily it was repealed.

The current PM by far is a strict improvement on anyone we has seen in past.

> The current PM by far is a strict improvement on anyone we has seen in past.

The current PM came up with demonetization. Arguably the single worst idea in India's economic history since Tuglaq's copper coins. This is despite the central bank strongly advising against it. The RBI's governor even quit because of the government's meddling.

The current government decided to suppress inconvenient NSSO jobs data leading the head of the National Statistical Comission to quit in protest of the politicization of the institution.

The current government tried to take over control of independent tribunals by a backdoor 'money bill'. Thank goodness the Supreme Court put an end to that.

The central government acting through its appointed state governors has repeatedly tried to snatch power from opposition parties with democratically won majorities. The judiciary had to step in time and again to stop this.

The current government has lowered the standard of public discourse where any criticism of the government is immediately labelled 'Anti-National'. The government has shamelessly politicized military actions and is now resorting to jingoism to boost it's electoral prospects. Hell, a former chief minister was caught on camera admitting as much.

The authoritarian tendencies of the dear leader are as clear as day. But sure, please tell me how Modiji is bringing us all Achhe Din. Oh, wait. Even the BJP has stopped talking about Acche Din now.

Modi had many misses demonetization and GST being top ones in my opinion.

But as far as authoritarianism and tyrannical attitude is concerned Modi does not even belong in the same league as congress party.

Congress party has done everything you have listed and lot more. Tell me if any Modi move comes even half close to what the Congress party did.

1. Took over 25% school capacity from all private schools and enforced severe restrictions in the form of RTE. This alone has closed down 10k + schools in India.

2. Created 100% exemption for Christians and Muslims run private/publicly funded schools from above point 1. They even went to amend Indian constitution (93rd) to create this blatantly bigoted scheme.

3. Congress create NGT National Green Tribunal. A body that reports, investigates and delivers punishment for anything related to environment, their decision can not be challenged in any court. Congress party has made millions through this body. I remember in a particular case where NGT fined this gentleman around Rs 3 crores for building water canals on his own private property. When his representative asked the NGT body "where is the evidence that I have done any harm to environment?" NGT simply stated that they need not provide any evidence at all.

> The central government acting through its appointed state governors has repeatedly tried to snatch power from opposition parties with democratically won majorities.

That is however is not at all true in even a single case. Using governors as thugs was Congress party's modus operandi and now being normalized. BJP government has not snatched any state from a majority party ever, not even once. Congress party on other hand has used their appointed Supreme Court judges to snatch Karnataka from BJP.

I am no fan of Narendra Modi, I personally dislike him for failing to undo the damage Congress party has done to Education related laws. But putting him in the bracket of "authoritarianism" is nothing but elitist snobbery. It is something that a convent educated cheese eating wine drinking socialite from Delhi or South Bombay might easily buy into but not an actually grassroot level worker.

You might have that backwards. Consider Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Iraq was diverse, with multiple languages and religions. The authoritarian strongman was needed to hold the country together against the divisive diversity. Without him, people quickly took to killing each other.

No he doesn't. Comparing Iraq to India is just such a big Joke. Just look at the massive population difference between the two countries (37 mil v/s 1500 mil).

More details on the logistics behind the Indian election -

With a population of 1.3 billion people and a voting age of 18, an astonishing 900 million Indians are eligible to vote. This is nearly double the entire population of the 28-country European Union, and triple that of the United States. Often, the electorate of a single state in India is as large as that of a country.

The ECI deploys over 11 million civilian and security personnel — greater than the population of 42 of the 50 states in the US— to ensure the elections run fairly and smoothly.

Source: https://medium.com/@sarveshmathi/logistics-behind-the-worlds...

I recently watched an independent film called “Newton” [1] about Indian democracy and voting process. It was amazing and I highly recommend it.

[1] https://m.imdb.com/title/tt6484982/

this movie is well made, and is available on Amazon Prime (in the US.)

I turned down a job to create a rigged voting system in an African 'republic'. It was for something regional, not the majors. They wanted the voting system to have two lights outside the voting center, one for each candidate, where the brightness of the light indicated the number of votes for each, with the ability for remotely overriding and setting the brightness for each light. That was an eye opener.

Interesting that they wouldn't just display the number of votes. By using brightness, they transform their method of cheating into something much more difficult to quantify.

I thought the lights were just ridiculous.

"Better" is difficult to measure. I used to think that US elections are a lot less corrupt than Indian elections, thus are probably "better". Now I'm not so sure!

The sheer scale of an Indian election is rather remarkable though, as is the melodramatic buzz it generates throughout the country. It's an administrative marvel, especially when you consider the strangling bureaucracy that is rife in most Indian government departments.

> I used to think that US elections are a lot less corrupt than Indian elections, thus are probably "better". Now I'm not so sure!

I've read some thing about the primaries in the last US election, especially in the dems party. Wow, that was corruption to a whole new level. Also these primaries are (by design) super important to the US elections; too important to be so "unregulated" if you ask me.

Primaries are not elections. They are private intra party affairs.

Also, as far as I am aware, other than 1 district in Brooklyn whose votes were not counted in time in the Dem primary, there was hardly anything "corrupt" about either party's primary (and even that district went towards the winner anyways, and wouldn't have made a difference if every vote went in the opposite direction).

While not corrupt, or illegal, caucuses in US primaries are extremely undemocratic instruments, however, that is the exact opposite of what is considered the best method of voting in a democracy (secret ballot).

> Primaries are not elections.

Yes, they are.

> They are private intra party affairs.

That wouldn't stop them from being elections, but primaries are public affairs carried out by the State. (Caucuses are more like you describe, but even they often have state involvement.)

> caucuses in US primaries

Caucuses are not in primaries, they are an alternative to them.

> Caucuses are not in primaries, they are an alternative to them.

Are you familiar with U.S. elections? Caucuses are very much part of the primaries. They are how certain states perform their primaries. Iowa, for example.

> Are you familiar with U.S. elections?

Yes. Intimately.

> Caucuses are very much part of the primaries. They are how certain states perform their primaries.

No, caucuses are a (formerly, universally used—primaries are a newer thing) alternative to primaries still used in a minority of states (and sometimes, by some parties but not others in a state) to select delegates to Presidential nominating conventions.

Because primaries have over time displaced caucuses as the main candidate selection mechanism, and because the campaigns are somewhat nationalized, and because there isn't a handy name for the whole process, the whole national process of selecting such delegates is sometimes sloppily referred to as “the primary” of each party.

> Caucuses are very much part of the primaries

This is a disconnect on jargon. Primaries mean elections. Caucuses are an alternative to primaries. Both primaries and elections constitute the process by which American parties select delegates for their party conventions. The whole delegate-selection and convention assemblage is loosely referred to as the "primary" in the popular press.

What corruption do you think you see?

I have a feeling that you may be being disingenuous, based on the wording of your question, but the one of the most glaringly obvious examples was Bernie getting pushed out by his own party.

I'm not at all. throwaway123156 put it well above, but there is not, in my mind, corruption. The Democratic party is a private group that defines it's own rules, including how a candidate is selected. (The same is true for the Republican party - see how primary votes per state are allocated differently between the two parties). The Democrats had a rule that allowed _actual_ members to have an increased count in their vote (superdelegates).

Additionally, Bernie was _not_ a member of the Democratic party - he was an independent caucusing with the Democrats who chose to run as a Democrat. There a lots of good reasons for party members to not back a candidate who chose not to be a member and buy into their ideals until it was (potentially) advantageous for him to run as president.

Oy. If nothing else, Bernie is an independent. The Democrats are not his party. They are his natural allies, or should be, and he understood U.S. elections well enough to know that if he ran as a third-party independent he and the Democrats would both lose, electing their natural antagonist: whichever Republican. So, in sum, Bernie ran in the Democratic primary to be the Democratic candidate, but he was not and is not a Democrat.

There are definitely a lot of factors. One easy way to gain a lot of points over the US is to use ranked voting and/or proportional representation.

Well yeah, they have Voter ID.

But what about the candidates?! Try to top those and then we'll talk.

The system is in place. Things change slowly in a democracy that has its flaws as well as benefits.

Faults of a slow democracy are easy to see but benefits are not so much. You see move fast break things is not how you deal with people's life. The system is in place and it has immense constitution powers granted. Once the literacy increases so would the quality of candidates. If you look at ADR databases and compare it with regional GDP as well as educational levels you would see a clear trend towards a net positive.

The slop isn't as high as we would like it but it's positive and that's how democracies work.

The world's largest democracy & arguably the best.

Almost anything that India does, even marginally successfully, is done at a scale that is incomparable to anything in the world.

By what metric are they the best democracy?

I visited Hyderabad and Chennai for work in 2018 for about three weeks. It’s certainly not a place I would want my family with me. The food in Hyderabad was amazing though, I’ll give them that.

Are you sure you are not conflating the meaning of the word "democracy" to different issues, including quality of life, climate, infrastructure etc?

There's no way you can evaluate how good/bad democracy is in any country, in 3 weeks.

I didn’t make any statement on their democracy. I questioned by what metric are they the best and I commented that Hyderabad and Chennai are not a place I would take my family.

Not sure how you took that to be any kind of judgement on India’s democracy.

> By what metric are they the best democracy?

I'm not sure what else you meant by that.

While i'm not well versed in politics and democracies around the world, i have seen a common person protest against the government, get over whelming public support, start his own party and go on to become the chief minister of Delhi all within a span of 5-7 years. I know for sure that isn't possible in the US.

Bill Clinton was a common person. While he didn't start his own political party, he radically changed the Democratic party into a more conservative form, and got himself elected President.

Was Bill Clinton appreciably more conservative than Jimmy Carter, the last Dem President before Clinton?

Very much so. Clinton trimmed the welfare rolls, cut the number of federal employees, deregulated finance, deregulated telecom (though Carter was also a major deregulator, having deregulated airlines, trucking, and beer), signed NAFTA, signed DADT, signed DOMA, signed RFRA, passed aggressive violent crime legislation, etc.

Indian cities are a mess for a very different reason - they dont have elected city governments - you might ask why but the answer is too detailed to give here.

I am pretty sure we have municipal elections here.

The second claim seems dubious. China has about the same number of people as India and about twice the land area. The US has about the same area as China. Russia has twice that land area.

Most of the Chinese people live in about half the land area. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heihe%E2%80%93Tengchong_Line

That being said, only China is willing to do things like build high speed rail lines to Urumqi and Lhasa that won't even cover the electricity costs of running the trains.

have you been there? deep poverty as soon as you jump in a train, massive open defecation, legal system that is tribal and still rely on caste, very low women rights especially for non-educated ones. but yeah they might be doing better than anyone for sure.

Democracy, is not about any of these issues you are pointing at.

India may have a long way to go in aspects you have mentioned, but the way the Indian democracy works, it has enough checks and balances to make it work as intended, which IMO is among the best if not the best.

PS: I have worked at booth level before, during and after the elections in India, to know the intricacies of what happens during the whole process.

Dude have you been here? Legal system that is tribal? Deep poverty as soon as you jump in a train? I am not saying India is perfect but this is an exaggeration and undermines the steps India has taken in the past one or two decades in a positive direction


This is not an exageration anyone jumping in the train from their biggest cities will know.


not saying that progress has not been made. But calling India the best democracy is not factual worse it's a blatant lie. It is a country where you can (should) bribe public officials i.e: "A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 recorded that more than 62% of Indians had at some point or another paid a bribe to a public official to get a job done"

So like American Police's discrimination against people of color?

I am from India, in India. You have only read about it, I live in it. Not saying the slums around railway lines are not there but the condition also has improved a lot. 2005? That's more than a decade back.

I never said america was better I just contested the fact that India was the best democracy on earth

again, democracy is how elections are held, how elected officials work, and how the transfer of power occurs without problems, how legislations are passed, how rules and regulations are created/maintained/updated/destroyed.

Democracy doesn't mean Utopia.

Feel free to disagree and say that India is not the best democracy on earth. But it'd sound credible if you can tell which country is the best democracy as per your data/facts/beliefs, and probably share that too.


Noone is forgetting China. In the context of democratic elections, adictator's comment still has merit.

I think adictator's first point has merit, especially because it is couched as something that is arguably true.

The problem is the generalization-stated-as-fact that the second point tries to make: there are all kinds of things (e.g. building transit networks and power grids) that other countries do that are definitely on a comparable scale to India's efforts.

I'm not genuinely not trolling, but is China really a democracy? I have been to China and I think it's far from being a democracy.

China is not a democracy. It's a communist country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communism

He said "almost anything that India does is at an impressive scale". Nowhere he talked about elections.

Also elections in India are pretty much rigged especially because of people buying votes.

This is a puff piece to legitimize use of EVMs. India uses EVMs, a closed source device made by a secretive Japanese manufacturer. The government claims the device is "hack" proof. They stubbornly refuse to conduct an open hackathon to find vulnerabilities.

Though Indian voters also cast their ballots on electronic voting machines, they are much simpler and arguably more reliable than the ones used by their American counterparts. Unlike the machines in America, which are manufactured by private companies, differ in each state, and need proprietary ballot paper, the ones used in India are made by two government firms, and are battery operated—a key detail in a country that struggles with power supply. (Plug-in machines caused problems in the latest US election, as some workers forgot to plug them in). Each machine holds up to 2,000 votes, so large-scale hacking is highly unlikely.

It's good to see an audit paper trail is generated by these machines.

If EVMs are to be used, an auditable paper trail is necessary.

Hopefully the Election Commission will audit a representative sample of locations to prevent any irregularities.

There is nothing to hack to meaningfully affect an election outcome at the national level. Plus Election Commission of India takes no chances around it.

IAUI the major threats historically were booth takeovers, stolen vote forms and bribed vote counters, and from what I've head the machine has a good record on defeating all three. Is that correct, or have there been developments I've missed?

you are correct. The EVMs have definitely helped in this regard.

That said, threat models keep evolving. As EVMs are now used, one needs to incorporate EVM manipulation in the threat model as well.

The way to stay ahead of these threat models is to have an open, transparent process. A simple way to do that is to publish the design spec of the EVMs, and any source code. Invite audit from the world. Hiding it away is just "security by obscurity", which is well-known in the security community as not being good practice.

> well-known in the security community as not being good practice

The folks in charge of making decisions don't understand security. I'm not criticising them, it's quite reasonable that a layman would think that security by obscurity works.

They have a threat model, their threat model is based on reality, and their security is pretty good against the threat model. How can you say they "don't understand security"?

They also (viewed from a distance) seem to ignore people who talk about security without talking about threat models.

Security by obscurity seems to be very nearly irrelevant to the Indian Electoral Commission's security model. Security by obscurity is bad, of course, but in that model it's such a minor factor. If I were the commission I'd file people who disregard the threat model and talk about minor factors under "b" for "bikeshedders".

yep, agreed!

I wish that was not the case, though, and its up to us as the tech community to educate our policymakers.

I believe this is the first time VVPATs are being deployed all over, in addition to EVMs. If this cannot be considered secure enough (even if you assume EVMs were hacked, VVPATs negate any effects of cheating).

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