• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

India holds Lok Sabha election as PM Modi aims for third term win

Narendra Modi

India, the most populous nation in the world, is holding its over one month parliamentary election with about 1 billion eligible voters and Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to secure a third term re-election.

Modi is on a record-equalling third straight term win like India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He says another overwhelming victory for the National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP.

The prime minister has made series of promises one of which is lifting India to a developed economy by 2047 from middle-income levels.

The world’s fifth-largest economy has grown fast in the past few years and he has “guaranteed” to take it to the third position if he wins the election.

The election in the world’s largest democracy for 543 seats in the lower house of parliament also known as Lok Sabha will be held in seven phases.

Voters can make their choice by pressing a button on an electronic voting machine, first used in India in 1982 and more widely since the early 2000s.

Votes will be counted on June 4 after polling is done on April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25 and June 1.

To rule, a party or a coalition needs a simple majority of 272 seats. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 303 seats the last time, followed by 52 for the main opposition Indian National Congress (INC).

Using first-past-the-post system, voters cast a vote for a single candidate in a constituency and the candidate with the most votes wins the seat.

The voting age is 18 years and contestants need to be at least 25 years old.

A total of 968 million voters are registered, out of which 497 million are men and 471 million are women.

A higher percentage of women voters than men are likely to vote for the second time in a row.

Modi headlines the race, followed by his de facto deputy Amit Shah and the main opposition face, Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party.

Gandhi’s mother Sonia, the matriarch of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, is not contesting this time.

The elections have been described by analysts as the most predictable polls India has held in decades, with Modi and his BJP widely expected to win a third term in power.

While surveys show Modi to be India’s most popular political leader by a wide margin, political opponents have also accused the government of “skewing the pitch” of the election and eroding the integrity of India’s democracy and its electoral processes.

Rahul Gandhi, a former leader in the Congress party who lost the past two elections to Modi, recently called the upcoming election a “rigged match”, describing the fight against the BJP as a fight for “India’s democracy and constitution”.

While 27 opposition parties, including Congress, came together to form a coalition under the acronym “INDIA” last year, they could not come to agreements over leadership and seat-sharing and are still seen as fragmented.