Published: Mon, May 20, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Final round of voting underway in India's marathon elections

Final round of voting underway in India's marathon elections

Modi's government has fallen short on creating jobs for the million Indians entering the labour market every month, the shock introduction of a cash ban in 2016 caused huge disruption to livelihoods, and Indian banks are gasping under bad debts.

A master of the grand political gesture, Mr Modi and his aides tweeted the photos, hoping they would strike a chord with his austere, religious supporters.

The great outcome that makes Modi - Shah duo a juggernaut, is about West Bengal, where BJP has the probability to win around five seats in the state where BJP has no MP in the last elections.

Mr Modi's main rival is Rahul Gandhi, 48, of the Congress party, the scion of India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The results are due on Thursday.

The 68-year-old leader went to scores of rallies across the country to fire up his Hindu base and turn the campaign into a debate on national security following tit-for-tat air raids with Pakistan in March. Mr Modi called Mr Gandhi's father Rajiv, a former prime minister who was assassinated on the campaign trail in 1991, India's most corrupt man, accusing him of using a warship for a family holiday.

Parties that are unattached to either side, which include the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) whose coalition in Uttar Pradesh is resisting the BJP, could get between 69 and 125 seats, according to various polls.

While the election, which began April 11, was largely peaceful, West Bengal, located in eastern India, was an exception.

As per the poll result, BJP is all set to sweep Madhya Pradesh with 25 seats and even in Rajasthan it is going to leave Congress a blank in Rajasthan. Modi's alliance won 336 seats in the 2014 election.

India's prime minister attracted ire and bemusement yesterday after donning saffron robes to meditate in a Himalayan cave, as the country votes in that final stage of its election.

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"People are divided for many reasons".

Minorities in India, especially Muslims, who comprise about 14% of India's 1.3 billion people, criticise Modi for his Hindu nationalist agenda.

Exit polls, though, are not completely accurate and have a mixed record in a country with an electorate of 900 million people.

Undeniably a hefty task considering the astounding number of votes cast. However, he gained ground amid the escalation of the conflict with neighbouring Pakistan. Congress and other opposition parties have challenged Modi over a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers' distress aggravated by low crop prices. A haphazard implementation of "one nation, one tax" - a goods and services tax - also hit small and medium businesses.

Elections were held for 542 seats in the Lower House of Parliament, with 272 seats needed to secure a majority.

Prodeep Chakrabarty, a retired school teacher in Kolkata, said Modi's Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) was desperate to win some seats against Banerjee's influential regional party.

Voter turnout in the first six rounds was approximately 66%, the Election Commission said, up from 58% in the last national vote in 2014.

Pollsters say Modi remains personally popular but his party's overall majority is at risk from a backlash against the government.

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