Election Ink, Democracy’s Great Equalizer

The anxieties of a nascent India gave birth to the semi-permanent dye. Today, it represents how far the country has come.

GettyImages-86173488 election ink
First time Indian voter Rajesh Vichare displays the indelible ink mark that shows he has cast his vote at a primary school in Kondgaon village of Raigad district of Maharashtra on April 23, 2009 (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Jesslyn Tannady


April 19, 2024


13 min

Today marks the start of the largest election in history. Of India’s 1.4 billion people, a whopping 969 million can vote in polls across seven stages, culminating on June 1. Three days later, India will know who will lead the nation as prime minister. Parliament hopefuls will take to the streets, cajoling, coercing, and sometimes even corrupting India’s citizenry to win their support. There will be chaos and conflict, rallies and revelry, hope and fear as citizens sort themselves into one of more than 2,600 parties. 

While one can maintain secrecy over who they voted for, whether they voted is there for all to see: a dark blue dye on their index finger. From Bollywood stars to cricket legends to the everyday person, when they vote, this mark makes them the same.

A lot has changed in India’s elections since the country’s inception: electronic voting machines have replaced paper ballots, leaders have risen and fallen, and new generations of voters have entered the fold. India is now the most populous country, overtaking China, and the fastest-growing major economy in the world. But through it all, its election ink has remained a constant. Well, almost.

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