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Indians vote in huge election as Modi seeks third term


Millions of Indians have participated in the initial phase of the world’s largest elections, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third term, focusing on issues such as economic growth, welfare, and Hindu nationalism.

The electoral battle pits Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against a coalition of around two dozen opposition parties, which advocate for increased affirmative action and welfare measures, while highlighting the importance of preserving democratic institutions.

Before polls closed on Friday, the Election Commission reported varying voter turnouts, ranging from 40 percent in Bihar to 68 percent in Tripura. In the multiphase elections of 2019, the average turnout was 67 percent.

“I urge all those voting… to exercise their franchise in record numbers,” Modi wrote on the social media platform X prior to casting his vote.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Indian National Congress party called on voters to combat “hatred and injustice.”

Approximately 969 million people, including 18 million first-time voters and 197 million individuals in their twenties, are registered to vote in the six-week-long elections. This surpasses the combined population of the 27 European Union member states. The first phase of voting covered 102 constituencies across 21 states and territories, spanning from Tamil Nadu in the south to Arunachal Pradesh on the Himalayan border with China. Despite ongoing ethnic clashes, voters in the violence-affected northeastern state of Manipur turned out in significant numbers to cast their ballots.

In Haridwar, a Hindu holy city in Uttarakhand state, voters patiently lined up outside polling stations on the banks of the Ganges River before the booths opened. Ganga Singh, a 27-year-old autorickshaw driver, expressed his motivation for voting: “I am here because I am happy about the direction the country is headed. I will vote, keeping in mind not personal welfare but the country’s prosperity.”

Voting was conducted using electronic voting machines, allowing voters to select their preferred candidate by pressing the blue button corresponding to the candidate’s serial number, name, and symbol, or opting for the “none of the above” option.

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