World’s biggest election begins in India

India's election begins Monday with first phase of voting in two northern states

India's election begins Monday with first phase of voting in two northern states

NEW DELHI – The world’s biggest and longest-running national election starts Monday, with two states in northern India beginning the competition between the country's ruling Congress party and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).    

In the first phase of the parliamentary election, five constituencies -- Tezpur, Kaliabor, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur -- in Assam state and one constituency in Tripura state will go to polls, according to India’s Election Commission.

Apart from the two principal parties, a number of small regional parties will compete in tea-growing state Assam and adjoining Tripura.

Various armed separatist groups, currently active in India’s northeast region, have not threatened to boycott national elections as they have in the past.

The Election Commission of India has made all the preparations for the month-long election in which Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be used to cast votes.

This will be the first national election in which India's voters will have the right to reject candidates by pressing a NOTA (None of the Above) button, an election reform measure being initiated as a result of a Supreme Court ruling last year.      

The hotly-contested election will be fought in nine phases from April 7 to May 12 around the key issues of corruption, inflation, unemployment, anti-incumbency and secularism.

The election results will be announced on May 16.

815 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots, an increase of 100 million new voters compared with the 2009 election.

The BJP-led coalition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is predicted to get 259 seats in the parliamentary election, 13 seats short of the 272-mark needed to form the government, according to an opinion poll jointly conducted by English-language news channel NDTV and Hansa Research Group.  

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which has ruled India since 2004, is expected to get only 123 seats out of 543 total.

State regional parties are expected to get 161 seats, making it likely they will play an important role in the post-poll alliance-building that could be needed to for the formation of a government.

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