India goes to polls in fourth phase of general election

2019-04-29 22:15
Indian young volunteers help a physically challenged voter on a wheelchair to cast his vote for the fourth phase of India's general elections. (Himanshu Sharma, AFP)

Indian young volunteers help a physically challenged voter on a wheelchair to cast his vote for the fourth phase of India's general elections. (Himanshu Sharma, AFP)

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More than 127 million people are eligible to vote as the fourth phase of India's election got under way across 71 seats in nine states.

Many of the constituencies for Monday's election are in Uttar Pradesh state in the north and western India's Maharashtra, where the financial capital Mumbai is located.

Uttar Pradesh elects the most MPs, with Maharashtra next, and both states are ruled by Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's coalition won more than 75% of the seats in the previous election in 2014.

However, political analysts say the BJP may struggle to repeat its strong showing this time due mainly to a jobs shortage and weak farm prices, issues upon which the main opposition Congress party has seized.

"Jobs should be the priority for the new government," said Aaditya Nair, a hotel management student, as he stood in line outside a polling station in Mumbai. 

India's financial markets were closed on Monday for the election.

Mumbai, which has six seats, is India's wealthiest city but ageing and insufficient infrastructure is a major concern.

It is also home to the massive Hindi film industry, Bollywood, as well as Asia's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and India's richest banker, Uday Kotak.

The seven-phase election, the world's biggest democratic exercise with about 900 million voters, started on April 11. The last phase of voting is on May 19, with results released four days later.

There are a total of 545 seats in parliament's lower house.

Maidul Islam, a professor of political science at Kolkata's Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, said long queues outside polling stations would indicate whether Modi's national security pitch was working.

"Whenever there is a BJP kind of a wave, you see a higher voter turnout," he said. 

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