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Dhaka Tribune

India kicks off the world’s largest elections

It is the world’s and history’s largest-ever democratic exercise, with 969 million registered voters eligible to cast their vote using 5.5 million electronic voting machines over 44 days

Update : 19 Apr 2024, 12:10 AM

The first of seven phases of the Indian national election is set to kick off on Friday. These elections are for the 543 seats of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament.

The party or coalition that secures a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha will form the next government.

It is the world’s – and history’s – largest-ever democratic exercise, with 969 million registered voters eligible to cast their vote using 5.5 million electronic voting machines over 44 days.

Over 166 million voters across 187,000 polling stations will exercise their franchise today. Voters include 84 million males, 82 million females, and 11,371 third-gender electors.

There are 3.5 million first-time voters and another 35 million voters in the age group 20-29 years.

Voting will start at 7am local time and end at 6pm local time.

Eight ministers, two former chief ministers, and a former governor will be in the fray in the first voting phase. In the first phase, 102 constituencies within 21 states and union territories are voting.

The elections will be held in seven phases, and the voting will end on June 1. The result will be declared by June 4.

As a multiparty democracy, India’s elections will see a range of national and regional parties competing for votes.

But two principal coalitions are directly facing off as contenders to lead the nation: the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and a coalition of 26 parties, called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), led by the main opposition, the Indian National Congress.

Four contests to watch out for

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu: Modi’s BJP has traditionally struggled to break through the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where it won zero out of the 39 seats in 2019. This time, the party is betting on a rising star, the party’s state leader, K Annamalai, to deliver an unlikely win from Coimbatore.

Nagpur, Maharashtra: Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari – a senior BJP leader who some political analysts view as a potential challenger to Modi – is contesting from Nagpur, a city famous for its oranges. Nagpur is also the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu majoritarian umbrella group that is the ideological mentor of the BJP.

Manipur: Both of the state’s two seats will vote in part in the first phase and part in the second phase on April 26. The elections are being held in the backdrop of ethnic strife that has effectively fractured Manipur between its plains – where the majority Meitei community predominantly lives – and the hills – where the Kuki community lives. More than 200 people have been killed in clashes since last May between the two communities, with many blaming the state’s BJP government for a biased role and for its failure to stop the violence.

Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh: The epicenter of anti-Muslim riots in 2013 that some observers believe helped the BJP win big in India’s most populous state in 2014, 72 out of 80 seats. The constituency and its neighboring seats have a significant Muslim population, but the BJP’s ability to consolidate Hindu votes helped it win in 2014 and 2019.

Who won these seats in 2019?

In the last Lok Sabha election, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – many of whose members are now part of the INDIA grouping – won 45 of the 102 seats that will vote on April 19.

The BJP-led NDA won 42 of these seats.

In Tamil Nadu, the biggest prize in the first phase was the NDA alliance winning one seat: This went to the regional All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The BJP itself did not win any seats. The other 38 seats in Tamil Nadu went to the UPA, with the Congress winning eight, the DMK winning 23, and other allies winning the rest.

In Assam, a delimitation exercise last year changed the organization of constituencies. This year, Kaziranga replaced Kaliabor in 2019, with some changes. The Congress won this seat in 2019. Sonitpur has replaced Tezpur, which the BJP won in 2019.

The second phase of voting will be on April 26.

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