India has announced the dates for a national election that will see close to 900 million voters cast their ballots in nearly a million polling booths – the world’s biggest ever democratic exercise.
In a press conference in the capital New Delhi on Sunday, the country’s chief election commissioner, Sunil Arora, unveiled the timeline for India’s mammoth seven-phase election to be held on April 11, 18, 23, 29 and May 6, 12 and 19.
The counting of votes will be held on May 23.
Elections will also be held simultaneously to four State assemblies — Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha — along with the parliamentary polls. Jammu and Kashmir will not be going to polls in this excercise although the state has been under central rule since the coalition governement state government collapsed in June 2018.
Although admired for its ability to conduct the polls with few hitches, India’s election commission had come under pressure from opposition parties for the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs).
To allay fears of poll fraud, Arora said the Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system will be used in all the polling booths during the election.
The remaining two seats are reserved for the Anglo-Indian community, which traces part of its ancestry to Europeans who intermarried with Indians in the colonial era. These members are nominated by India’s president.
India’s Hindu nationalist PM Narendra Modi is seeking a second straight term [Abhishek N Chinnappa/Reuters]
Modi seeks second term
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be running for a second term against a group of opposition parties, led mainly by Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, the latest scion of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty.
The two leaders are the strongest challengers from a field of hundreds of political parties from across the culturally and geographically diverse country of 1.3 billion.
Modi, whose right-wing party won an outright majority in the 2014 election, enters the race in a strong position and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to defeat Gandhi’s Congress once again.
His Hindu nationalist political machine is riding on Modi’s personal popularity and an array of emotive issues, including renewed hostility with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.
But opinion polls have suggested ebbing support for the BJP mainly over jobs and economy, and even that the party may fall short of the 272 seats it needs to form a government on its own.