India set to count votes after marathon general elections

2019-05-23 05:09
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Saurabh Das, AP, file)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Saurabh Das, AP, file)

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India will count votes on Thursday after the seven-phase elections drew to a close on May 19, with incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi tipped to win a second term in office.

More than 67 percent of the 900 million eligible voters cast their ballot in the mammoth elections spread over six weeks, recording the highest ever voter turnout in the country's independent history.

Exit polls have predicted a clear majority for Modi in the 545-member Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. 190513091851774

Elections were held for 542 constituencies, as polls in southern constituency of Vellore were rescinded. Two seats are nominated by the president.

The party or coalition with a simple majority (272 seats) is invited to form the government. The MPs from the winning party or coalition elect their leader, who then becomes the country's prime minister.

With results of the world's largest election barely hours hours away, the big question on everybody's mind is: can Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) beat anti-incumbency and form a second consecutive government?

Activists and many senior editors fear another term for Modi will boost hardline Hindu groups, who have been accused of increasing attacks on minorities, particularly Muslims, in the past five years.

"It's is a battle between those who believe in a majoritarian nationalism based on Hindi, Hindu, upper caste and vegetarian sentiments and those who believe in a contractual nationalism which is based on the promise of accommodating the diversity of the peoples of the country," Vinod K Jose, the Editor of The Caravan magazine, told Al Jazeera.

190423115918201 The party swept to power on the back of a 'Modi wave' in 2014 winning 282 of the 543 seats in parliament and forming the most powerful central government in decades.

Polarising narrative

The BJP appeared on the backfoot in the early days of the campaign as it was attacked on multiple fronts by a resurgent opposition led by the Congress and regional parties.

Rahul Gandhi in particular made accusations of corruption in the purchase of French Rafale fighter jets.

190520083409952 Salman Soz of the Congress accused the BJP of running a divisive campaign.

"It was a campaign devoid of any discussion of issues on the part of the BJP because the PM doesn't want to talk about his record," Soz told Al Jazeera.

However, the BJP made a comeback following a surge in nationalist sentiment triggered by Indian air strikes inside Pakistan in retaliation to a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir, and effectively turned its campaign into referendum on national security.

The 2019 elections saw the BJP returning to its core ideology of Hindu nationalism as it fielded Sadhvi Pragya Thakur as its candidate from the central Indian city of Bhopal.

Thakur is facing terror charges for plotting bomb attack on Muslims.

Additional reporting by Bilal Kuchay from New Delhi


Read more on:    narendra modi  |  india

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