Indians vote in huge election

A substantial number of Indians voted on Friday in the first phase of the world's largest election, authorities said, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a historic third term on the back of issues such as growth, welfare and Hindu nationalism.

Publication: 19.04.2024 - 16:33
Indians vote in huge election
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The vote pits Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of two dozen opposition parties that promise greater affirmative action and more handouts while stressing what they call the need to save democratic institutions.

Three hours before polls closed, figures from the Election Commission showed voter turnout ranged between 40% in the sprawling northern state of Bihar and 68% in the small northeastern state of Tripura.

"Voters show great enthusiasm as polling reaches halfway mark," an election panel spokesperson had posted earlier on X. "Substantial voter turnout reported."

The first of seven phases, Friday's vote covered 166 million voters in 102 constituencies across 21 states and territories, from Tamil Nadu in the south to Arunachal Pradesh on the Himalayan frontier with China.

Almost a billion people in the world's most populous nation are eligible to vote in the entire exercise running through the peak of summer until June 1, with results set, opens new tab for June 4.

"Modi will come back to power, because apart from the religious push, his other work, in areas such as safety and security, is good," said Abdul Sattar, 32, a Muslim voter in the city of Kairana in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

Surveys suggest the BJP will easily win a majority, even though voters worry about unemployment, inflation and rural distress in the world's fastest growing major economy.

Jobs were the chief concern for Mohammed Shabbir, another Muslim voter in Kairana. None of his eight children had regular employment, the 60-year-old driver said.

"Even the Hindus are affected by a lack of jobs," he said, adding that the problem outweighed the appeal of Hindu nationalism in the Hindu-majority nation.

Especially after Modi's January consecration of a grand temple to Lord Ram on a site in Uttar Pradesh believed to be his birthplace, Hindu nationalism is a key election theme.

Critics accuse Modi's government and party of targeting India's 200 million minority Muslims to please their hardline Hindu base - charges both deny.

Modi aims to win 370 of parliament's 543 seats, up from 303 in 2019, hoping for a two-thirds majority that some analysts and opposition members fear could let his party usher in far-reaching constitutional changes.

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