Key states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra go to the polls
NEW DELHI – India’s election enters its first day of widespread voting Thursday, with 91 seats being contested after two earlier phases in the country’s northeast.
The third phase involves the length and breadth of India – from the Indian-held Jammu & Kashmir state in the north to Kerala in the south.
Key states including Uttar Pradesh – the state which elects the most lawmakers – and Bihar in north India and Maharashtra in the west also go to polls on Thursday.
The other five states include Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in central India, Haryana and Jharkhand in the north and Odisha in the south.
In the third phase of the parliamentary election, one constituency of Indian-held Jammu & Kashmir, six constituencies of Bihar, one constituency of Chhattisgarh, ten constituencies of Haryana, four constituencies of Jharkhand, twenty constituencies of Kerala, nine constituencies of Madhya Pradesh, ten constituencies of Maharashtra, ten constituencies of Odisha and ten constituencies of Uttar Pradesh will go to polls on Thursday.
The four federal territories of Delhi, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, which collectively elect ten seats to India’s Parliament, will see and conclude the voting on a single day.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying its best to wrest control of the federal government, riding on the “popularity wave” of its Hindu mascot Narendra Modi, the controversial politician and three-time chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.
The ruling Congress party-led coalition, the United Progressive Alliance – which has ruled India since 2004 – has come in for sharp criticism and public scrutiny for a series of corruption scandals, policy paralysis and the dwindling economy.
Apart from the two principal parties, a number of state-based regional parties are in the fray for Lok Sabha or House of People (the lower house of the Indian parliament).
The Election Commission of India has made all the preparations for the third and crucial phase of national contest in which Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be used to cast votes.
This is the first national election in which India’s voters have the right to reject candidates by pressing a NOTA (None of the Above) button, an reform being initiated as a result of a Supreme Court ruling last year.
The hotly contested election is being 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.
Around 815 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots, an increase of 100 million new voters compared with the 2009 election.
According to opinion polls, the BJP, which has been in opposition for the past two terms, is expected to form the next federal government after defeating Congress, which has been in power since 2004.
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