India election begins as almost 1 billion voters start heading to the polls

todayApril 19, 2024

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India election begins as almost 1 billion voters start heading to the polls

India’s election has kicked off with the first day of polling taking place in 102 constituencies, across 21 states and territories.

With close to a billion people registered to vote in seven phases across 44 days, co-ordinating the election is a mammoth task.

In the old town of Jaipur, Rajasthan – where temperatures are this week hitting highs of 38°C – voters lined up early at a polling station to avoid queuing during the hottest hours of the day.

A public holiday was declared to encourage voting and at the booths, the laborious process of checking voters’ identities against the registration data took place.

More than 15 million polling staff and security personnel have been employed to work in the country’s polling stations, where more than 5.5 million electronic voting machines (EVM) have been set up.

Once someone’s identity has been verified and their vote cast, indelible ink is applied to their index finger.

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A man votes at a polling station in Bikaner district, Rajasthan, India, April 19, 2024. Pic: Reuters/Amit Dave

A man votes at a polling station in Bikaner district, Rajasthan. Pic: Reuters/Amit Dave

The EVMs will be sealed and stored after their use – and only opened on 4 June when results are counted.

Half of India‘s 1.4 billion population is under the age of 25 and more than 18 million first time voters are registered.

Gauranshi Sharma, 19, told Sky News she was “excited” to be voting for the first time and that doing so felt “like I’m stepping into my adulthood”.

This election will be a referendum for Narendra Modi, a populist prime minister who governs with a with a mix of religious identity and Hindu nationalism.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the launch of the redevelopment project of the Sabarmati Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pic: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

Voters queuing in Rajasthan.

Voters queuing in Rajasthan

For a decade, he has dominated Indian politics and is expected to win his third term. He is immensely popular in Rajasthan, where his party won all 25 seats in 2019.

“Under Modi’s rule our country has risen very high,” voter Namita Goel said. “He should be re-elected […] and take our country to greater heights.”

Mahadev Swaney said: “Looking at the bright future of India, I have voted for Modi. India is on the world stage due to him and his thinking.”

A woman proudly poses after casting her vote.

A woman proudly poses after casting her vote

However, opposition parties have accused Modi of using federal agencies to hinder them ahead of the vote, with alleged tactics including raids, intimidation, bank account freezes and even jailing opposition leaders.

Mr Modi has promised a bright economic future for all – but many of India’s 200 million Muslims are yet to be convinced.

Voter Abdul, 56, said: “Earlier we used to live together, today we are all apart. Now elections are based on religion. This is wrong.”

Written by: Newsroom

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