We are now only days away from the start of the greatest democratic show on earth. It is hard to challenge India's claims to be the world's biggest living, breathing dynamic democracy. The 814.5 million Indians who will cast ballots at 930,000 polling stations from April 7 to May 12 are the proof of that.

Unfortunately it is a flawed democracy, too much of a tamasha (a show with much singing and dancing) and not enough serious substance. For that, I do not blame the voters: They play their part faithfully enough; the problem is that the message does not get through to those running the country day by day.

There is plenty of the tamasha, including the loud rallies and colorful posters proclaiming that their chosen candidate is going to change life for the better. Trading of insults — with Congress leader Sharad Pawar declaring that opposition candidate Narendra Modi needs mental treatment for talking rubbish — is reminiscent of Victorian British hustings. There is a profusion of party symbols and — above all — the glorious uncertainty about who is going to win, both in the individual constituency and state and in the country as a whole. This is an election with a lot hanging on it, especially the question of who will rule India from May.