Hotly contested election will be fought in nine phases from April 7 to May 12, with opposition expected to form next government
NEW DELHI – The fourth phase of India’s parliamentary election starts Saturday with three northeastern states and one western coastal state going to the polls for seven seats.
Three constituencies of Assam state, one constituency of Tripura, one constituency of Sikkim and two constituencies of the western coastal state of Goa will vote, according to India’s Election Commission.
The three northeastern states are considered traditional strongholds of the United Progressive Alliance, which is led by the ruling Congress Party, while Goa is dominated by the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won the last state election in 2012.
Voting took place Friday in the lone constituency of northeastern Mizoram state, where heavy security measures were taken with eight additional companies of federal paramilitary forces being deployed.
The elections in Mizoram, originally scheduled for Wednesday, were delayed by the Election Commission after a state-wide shutdown was called for by three NGOs that protested the allowance for ethnic Bru refugees to vote through postal ballot from relief camps in neighboring Tripura state.
Congress Party’s Vice President attacked BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, Friday for suppressing his marital status.
“In Delhi, they talk about respecting women but his wife’s name never found its way into the affidavit,” 43-year old Rahul Gandhi said.
63-year old Modi, who filed his nomination papers Wednesday from western Gujarat state, acknowledged for the first time that he was married to Jashodaben Chimanlal, a village teacher whom he married at age 17. They have been living separately for the past 44 years.
Modi’s acknowledged his marital status after a recent Supreme Court judgment and subsequent election commission order made it mandatory to “fully” fill in the election nomination form.
Modi, the frontrunner to be India’s next prime minister, had left the marital status column blank in previous forms.
India’s national election began Monday and has voted for 104 seats out of the total 543 for India’s lower house of parliament.
The Election Commission has undertaken all preparations for the month-long election 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, after 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 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 the opposition for the past two terms - is anticipated to form the next federal government after defeating the Congress Party, which has been in power since 2004.
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