India election enters seventh phase of voting

By Mubasshir Mushtaq, Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi among candidates for parliamentary seats on Wednesday

Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi among candidates for parliamentary seats on Wednesday

NEW DELHI - India’s national election is set to enter in its seventh phase of voting Wednesday, with seven states and two federal territories going to polls for 89 seats.

Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, will join constituencies key states Uttar Pradesh – which elects the most lawmakers – Bihar in north India and West Bengal in Wednesday's voting.

The whole of Gujarat in western India, where prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi is chief minister, and Punjab in the north will vote on Wednesday. Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, two federal territories, will also go to polls for a single constituency in each territory.

Modi and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi will both contest seats on Wednesday. Gandhi is contesting from Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli, a decades-long home constituency for the Gandhi family, while Modi is fighting his first national election from Vadodara in his home state Gujarat. Modi will also seek a seat in Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, on May 12.

A total of 138 million registered voters will have the right to elect 89 lawmakers in India’s lower house of parliament.

Out of the total 543 constituencies in Indian parliament's lower house, 349 have already voted in the six-week-long national election which started on April 7.

Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday claimed that more people died due to terrorism during the right-wing BJP-led  (Bharatiya Janata Party) coalition government from 1999 to 2004 than under Congress rule. 

“During the five years of BJP rule, 22,000 people lost their lives. During the Kandahar hijacking (of 1999), top BJP leaders stood in a line and gave the terrorists whatever they wanted,” 43-year-old Gandhi said at a rally in Kashipur in northern Uttrakhand state.

Modi was criticized for quoting the words an Indian army captain, Vikram Batra, said to a news channel before being killed in the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan.

Batra’s parents criticized Modi for politicizing the name of their son and the captain's mother Kamal Kanta Batra, who is a candidate for the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party, said Modi should withdraw the BJP candidate standing against her if Modi cares arbour her son. 

“I have immense respect for Kargil martyr Vikram Batra and his parents. I will quit politics rather than allow dignity of martyrs be hurt,” Modi said, to clarify his earlier statement.

The hotly contested election has been fought in nine phases from April 7 to May 12 around 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.

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