Delhi to Gujarat: Encounters with Indian democracy on the BBC Election Train

Apr 29, 2009
*Special to asia!

Karishma Vaswani looks back on the first leg of the journey on an Indian train, and the people she met.

As India Votes 2009

Illustration: Vikash Sharma

The train itself is a vehicle literally as well as figuratively. As a journalist, India is just amazing because you are never short of stories. 

We stopped on a tiny platform on the way from Delhi to Gujarat. There is a very small town and as the train pulled up, people started crowding around the train. Generally you don't expect to meet English speakers out in the small towns, so I started speaking in Hindi to this young girl who looked to be about 22 or 23. She turned around and answered me in very good English. 

She said she was a local student and she was studying to be a civil servant. It was the job she wanted and it was her life's dream. I asked her why she wanted a government job and she said it was because it was secure. She said she was from a small town and with the economy slowing down, she wasn't sure that she would be able to compete with the other people. 

This is very different from years ago when a lot of people like this girl would have taken the risk and gone to Mumbai, because the economy was advancing at such a rapid rate and jobs were being created at an unprecedented rate. 

Since things have slowed down, a lot of people who would have taken the risk and gone out there, are falling back on the traditional jobs of India, the government jobs. It is very difficult to get one of these because you have to sit for a number of exams or you have to have pretty good connections. 

I then asked her what she thought of the current government and what she wanted from her leaders. This girl from a tiny village in India turned to me and said she wanted someone who cares about the whole of the country. It wasn't about someone just having a vision at a regional level. She wanted someone with a vision at the national level.

This is actually one of the most important themes of this elections. A lot of Indian politics is about regionalisation, and so many voters have come up to me and said, it was great that leaders care about their town but what about other people in the rest of country?

They said they needed a leader who was strong enough to carry them out of the current economic climate and the security issues that they were feeling. The girl I talked to in a small village was someone who had the exact same sentiment that her countrymen in other parts of the country was feeling.

It is important to remember that democracy in India is very healthy. Democracy in India is something people feel they fought really hard for, so having an opinion and being informed is important. They understand even in the rural parts that they have a stake and they have a say in their country's future and it is a matter of pride for them. It is actually something quite amazing to witness; everybody wants to have a say in how this country is run.


Next in the series: Mumbai, the city of Indian dreams

< Back to other stories in INDIA VOTES 2009


karishma vaswani

Karishma Vaswani presents India Business Report for BBC World News. The Mumbai-based correspondent has interviewed numerous political and business leaders in the region. Karishma's family hails from Sindh and she was educated at Warwick University in England where she read English and American Literature. Karishma will be travelling with the BBC India Election train for the entire journey across Northern India.