May 22, 2019
India has 29 states, seven union territories, 22 federally-recognized “scheduled” languages, over 19,000 dialects, seven major religions, 40 cities with over a million people, and rural landscapes where nearly 70% of the population lives. India is diverse, and it’s been difficult to identify consistent voter blocs. The below are a few voting blocs that will matter, however, in 2019.
At 800 million, farmers are India’s largest bloc. The majority of farmland is concentrated in three of the country’s largest states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Maharashtra. In 2014, Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won all three states. In 2014, Modi promised farmers subsidies and income increases, and in 2019, various parties promised free electricity. Unfortunately, farmers still face several challenges. The total area of farmland has declined, and small farms, which employ 86% of all farmers in India, own just 47% of crop area. Farmers face droughts, reduced harvests, and lower income, driven by climate change and falling commodity prices. Many have participated in protests and hunger strikes — some have even committed suicide — to demand more support, including loans and minimum crop prices. In a budget released in early 2019, the BJP outlined cash support for farmers, including an annual payment of ₹6,000 (~$85) per small farm owner. Congress is also promising a guaranteed minimum income and loan waivers. Though farmers have not always voted as a united front due to class and caste differences, with thousands in overwhelming debt, farmers may vote as a more united bloc in 2019.