The first phase of Lok Sabha polls remained a developing story on the state-owned English language channel China Global Television Network (CGTN) throughout Thursday, with all reports emphasising the scale of the elections with its 900 million eligible voters. “Truly stunning numbers, 900 million eligible voters, that is almost three times the size of the entire US population,” said CGTN’s anchor in the evening news. State-owned China Daily and Chinese news agency Xinhua also had reports on India’s “mega-election” while CGTN termed it “the world’s biggest exercise in democracy”.
Earlier in the day, CGTN’s report quoted “diplomatic experts” who believed that any change in leadership in India “will not turn the clock back”. “They pointed out that the Congress party maintained a sound relationship with China over a decade during that period, both nations cooperated on a global level, successfully on many occasions. On issues like climate change and WTO trade talks, Beijing and New Delhi formed a significant portion of the developing country bloc and found commonality in their agenda,” the report noted. It showed a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in 2014 and said he “called them old friends of the Chinese people”.
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CGTN’s India correspondent weighed in from Ghaziabad: “This election has been considered as a referendum on Prime Minister Modi, all his supporters are out today saying his economic policy has done very well.” Indian columnist and professor Madhav Nalapat was also called on to comment from Delhi.
On the eve of the elections, China Daily said that nearly 1.1 million electronic voting machines were transported through jungles, up mountains, and to a man living alone in a tiger reserve. The report quoted unnamed critics who said that Modi’s promises had “fallen short”, particularly in “rural areas where drought, low prices and loan sharks have driven thousands of farmers to kill themselves in recent years”. It also noted that economic growth has been “too slow to give jobs to the million Indians entering the labour market each month, and unemployment is reportedly at its highest since the 1970s”.
Earlier this week, state tabloid The Global Times in an opinion piece titled ‘Rational China approach can boost Indian jobs’ said that that the “spectre of jobless growth is one of the toughest challenges facing the BJP this election campaign. To win a second term in office, Modi has to build public confidence that his administration can solve the employment problem.”