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India kicks off biggest-ever election in history of the world with almost a billion voters

Almost a billion Indians will go to the polls today in national elections which some analysts have described as being the most consequential in its history.

Up to 970 million people will vote over six weeks to choose their next government.

The monumental democratic exercise will see 1.5 million polling booths monitored by 15 million election officials across the 1.269 million mi² Indian landmass.

There is also a legal requirement for a polling station to be within 2km of every elector and so ballot boxes must be physically taken to remote areas, such as far-flung parts of the jungle, by election officials.

Modi’s BJP – the world’s biggest political party with 180 million members – is seeking a third consecutive term in office, having been in power already for ten years.

Despite an alliance among opposition parties, the BJP is the strong favourite to win easily.

While there is more to do for any Indian government elected the opposition alliance has so far failed to enthuse voters and pollsters alike.

Under Prime Minister Modi, India has become the world’s fastest-growing major economy and is rapidly acquiring a superpower status.

India has also undergone a geopolitical and reputational transformation on the world stage under Modi’s leadership, with its economy making progress in global trade.

Increased rights for women have also been a cornerstone of Modi’s administration, with the democratisation of banking services providing access to digital accounts, progress on public hygiene with the installation of 110 million new public toilets, access to domestic fuel systems and cracking down on archaic divorce laws all key policy achievements.

Yet his time in power has not been without controversy, with some critics accusing him of pushing through divisive policies that have increased religious polarization.

Here Express.co.uk provides a brief guide to the upcoming elections and what they will entail. The Express will also be providing live reporting from India on this pivotal political moment in the country’s history.

How does India vote?

The country uses a multi-party, first-past-the-post system. Voters will elect 543 deputies to the lower house of parliament, known as the Lok Sabha. Two additional MPs are nominated by the country’s president.

Like in the UK, the party with the most votes is invited to form a government. The elections begin on April 19 and end on June 1. The results from the country’s 28 states and eight union territories will be released on June 4.

Who are the main challengers to the BJP?

The main challenger is the Indian National Congress, which until Modi’s appearance on the scene had been the de facto party of power. It is famously associated with the Gandhi political dynasty – both Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv served as prime ministers of India.

The party ruled India for much of its 77 years since independence but has now been relegated to the periphery of national politics.

Congress created an alliance with other opposition leaders to form the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA. It launched its campaign late last month on a platform of “saving democracy.” Political scion Rahul Gandhi is the face of the Congress Party but other key figures include popular leader of the Aam Aadmi Party and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

If voted to power, the Congress would undertake a mass wealth redistribution exercise, the party announced in its manifesto launch earlier this month.

Leader Rahul Gandhi said: “First, we will conduct a caste census to know the exact population and status of backward castes, SCs, STs, minorities and other castes.

“After that, the financial and institutional survey will begin.

“Subsequently, we will take up the historic assignment to distribute the wealth of India, jobs and other welfare schemes to these sections based on their population.”

His announcement gives the Indian voting public a stark choice between wealth distribution and wealth creation under the BJP.

What chances have the opposition of toppling Modi?

The opposition alliance has been plagued by infighting and has as yet been unable to nominate a candidate for prime minister.

Prominent members of the alliance have also faced police probes, in what analysts claim are politically motivated. Few give the alliance any chance of winning, with Modi’s party aiming to secure t least 400 seats in the parliament.

What are the burning issues?

India under the BJP has seen its economy take off and is predicted to become a 21st-century superpower.

Yet not everyone has benefitted from its rapid economic growth, with millions of young people without work. Unemployment among 20- to 24-year-olds was a whopping 44.4 percent at the end of 2023.

But the BJP has managed to lift millions out of fuel poverty by providing a subsidy for cooking gas so households can move away from using outdated fuel methods such as coal and wood.

Crime, law and order are likely to be key drivers too – with areas of the vast Uttar Pradesh province now seeing huge reductions in delinquency and some criminals even handing themselves over to police since a crackdown by local authorities there.

Farming is also likely to be a key issue in the elections, with agriculture the primary source of livelihood for about 55% of India’s population.

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 55% of India’s population and farmers


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