19 Apr 2024, 12:26

Hindu nationalist Modi the favourite as India votes

HARIDWAR, India, April 19, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - India began voting Friday in a
six-week election with an all but assured victory for Hindu nationalist Prime
Minister Narendra Modi.

A total of 968 million people are eligible to take part in the world's
biggest vote -- a staggering logistical exercise that critics say follows a
concerted effort to delegitimise rivals.

A long and winding queue was patiently assembled outside a polling station in
the Hindu holy city of Haridwar, on the banks of the Ganges river, even
before the booths opened.

"I am here because I am happy about the direction the country is headed,"
said autorickshaw driver Ganga Singh, 27.

"I will vote keeping in mind not personal welfare but the country's

Modi, 73, remains resoundingly popular after a decade in office that has seen
India rise in diplomatic clout and economic power, as well as efforts by his
government to bring the country's majority faith in ever closer alignment
with its politics.

"I urge all those voting... to exercise their franchise in record numbers,"
he wrote in a social media post on X as the election began.

"Every vote counts and every voice matters!"

Modi has already led the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through two
landslide victories in 2014 and 2019, forged in large part by his appeal to
the Hindu faithful.

Published opinion polls are rare in India, but a Pew survey last year found
Modi was viewed favourably by nearly 80 percent of the public.

Voting will be staggered over seven stages between April 19 and June 1, with
more than a million polling stations across India.

Ballots will be counted all at once on June 4 and are usually announced on
the same day.


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