THE STARTER’S gun has been fired on the biggest democratic exercise on Earth: an Indian general election. The Election Commission has set out a schedule for the country’s 900m-odd eligible voters to select a new parliament, in seven stages, with results due on May 23rd. The process, despite electronic voting and an increase in polling stations, to 1m, is lumbering. The scale is intimidating. Some 84m Indians—a whole Germany—have become eligible to vote since the previous poll, in 2014.
To young Indians, economic opportunity counts above all. Five years ago Narendra Modi clothed a reputation as a Hindu firebrand in an inclusive message about jobs and progress: sabka saath, sabka vikas, or “all together, development for all”. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power.
Yet Mr Modi’s record is patchy. Growth of 6.6% might sound good, but it has not generated enough work. His promise of 10m new jobs a year has proven hollow. Unemployment is close to half-century highs.
In the countryside, the strains are severe. Five years ago India’s 230m farmers opted for Mr Modi in droves. Yet in office, he eased imports of food and curbed exports to bring prices down. That was good for urban consumers, but hurt farmers, many of whom protested.
Then, just over two years ago, the government...