Indian 900 million voters have started casting their votes ahead of a marathon general election being held from 11 April to 19 May. Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a second term and his main opposition party is the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi. Counting of the votes will begin on May 23.
India’s parliament has two houses: the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. In this election, the Lok Sabha is the important one. It has 543 elected seats and any party will need a minimum of 272 seats in order to form a government.
Because of the vastness and huge population of India , the election will be held in seven phases, from the tea plantations of Darjeeling to the slums of Mumbai to the tropical Andaman Islands, and everywhere in between.
Whoever wins will take charge of a fast-developing country with an economy on track to surpass the UK’s to become the world’s fifth largest.
Phase one on Thursday saw some 142 million people including 7,764 transgender voters, eligible to register as such for the first time able to cast ballots.
Modi is under more favorable conditions than just a few months ago, when rising concerns about a lack of jobs had put his government on the back foot, and polls showed slumping support for his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
“I call upon all those whose constituencies are voting in the first phase today to turn out in record numbers and exercise their franchise,” Modi said in a tweet just after voting began.
“I specially urge young and first-time voters to vote in large numbers,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi, 48, hoping to become the latest prime minister from his dynasty and aided by sister Priyanka, has accused Modi of causing a “national disaster”.
Voters of all ages and from all walks of life – from tribal women to nuns – have been turning up to participate. Security forces were on high alert due to the perennial danger of violence at election time.