Voting begins in India as Narendra Modi seeks third term as prime minister

Poll conducted with tight security involves 166 million eligible electors, 187,000 voting booths and 1.8 million administrative personnel

Voting has begun in the first of seven rounds of polling in India’s general elections, in which prime minister Narendra Modi is aiming to secure a record third five-year term, based largely on his charismaand an agenda of buttressing Hindu nationalism.

Opposing Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a fragmented alliance of 26 opposition parties, offering an assortment of unrealistic financial gratuities and impractical and contentious caste-based employment schemes.

Led by the Congress Party, this alliance has claimed that its electoral fight is aimed at saving India’s constitution and secular democracy from being “subsumed” by the BJP and its ideological progenitor and mentor, the Hindu revivalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or National Volunteer Corps.

Voters began queuing at polling booths at 7am local time on Friday to elect 102 of 543 lower house MPs, spread across 21 states and federally administered territories, which are being contested by 1,625 candidates.


According to the Press Trust of India, the Election Commission of India (ECI) claimed that by 5pm nearly 60 per cent of 166 million eligible electors had voted in 187,000 polling booths, which are overseen by 1.8 million personnel amid tight security.

Officials said one minor incident of violence erupted in northeastern Manipur state, bordering Myanmar, which has been wracked by ethnic unrest since last May. A group of armed men fired several rounds near a polling station in the region’s Moirang assembly segment. No casualties were reported, but a video on social media showed voters fleeing the shooting.

Polls have predicted a comfortable win for the BJP, possibly improving on its 2019 tally of 303 MPs – 31 more than the 272 seats needed to form a government. This is despite widespread concerns over rising unemployment, the spiralling cost of living, farmers’ protests and rising pollution levels.

Numerous “guarantees” being offered by Mr Modi, if elected, include a clutch of welfare programmes, such as the distribution of free grain.

Political analysts say the BJP is seeking votes predominantly in Mr Modi’s name.

Public affairs commentator Rajdeep Sardesai, writing in the Hindustan Times on Friday, said that over his past decade in office Mr Modi had effectively built a credible narrative around being the sole leader capable of ensuring India’s grand future as a developed country and an economic global superpower.

The next round of voting for 89 parliamentary seats is one week away. Polling ends on June 1st. The results will be known three days later.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi