India to hold world's largest elections on April 19, PM Modi says confident of win - GulfToday

India to hold world's largest elections on April 19, PM Modi says confident of win


Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar (C) speaks during a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday. AFP

India will elect a new parliament in seven phases between April 19 and early June, the country's election authority said on Saturday, in what amounts to the world's largest election with nearly one billion eligible to vote.

The election pits two-term strongman Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his regional allies against a bickering alliance of two dozen opposition parties, with surveys suggesting a comfortable win for Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

A victory would make Modi, 73, only the second prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru, India's independence hero and its first prime minister, to win a third straight term.

"We address you at a precious moment, when we as a nation are set to reiterate our pledge to electoral democracy, when Indians will together express their will once again," Rajiv Kumar, the head of the independent Election Commission of India, told reporters. The last of the seven phases of voting will be held on June 1 and votes counted on June 4, he said.

RajivKumar-Indiapollchief Rajiv Kumar (C) sits with the election commissioners Gyanesh Kumar (L) and S. S. Sandhu at a press conference in New Delhi. AP

"We will take democracy to every corner of the country," Kumar said at a press conference in New Delhi announcing the voting dates. "It is our promise to deliver a national election in a manner that we... remain a beacon for democracy around the world."

Ballots from around the country will be counted all at once on June 4 and are usually announced on the same day.

Modi said the "biggest festival of democracy" had started and his party would campaign on its track record of "good governance and public service."
"I have full confidence that we will get the full affection and blessings" of more than 960 million voters for the third consecutive time, he said in a series of posts on X.

His opponents have been hamstrung by infighting and what critics say are politically motivated legal investigations aimed at hobbling any challengers to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Modi has already begun unofficial campaigning as he seeks a repeat of his landslide wins of 2014 and 2019, forged in part by his muscular appeals to India's majority faith.

Indiavote-votefornation Art school students pose with posters illustrating the upcoming parliamentary elections in Mumbai on Saturday. AFP

In January, Modi presided over the inauguration of a grand temple to the deity Ram in the once-sleepy town of Ayodhya, built on the grounds of a centuries-old mosque razed by Hindu zealots.

Construction of the temple fulfilled a long-standing demand of Hindu activists and was widely celebrated across India with back-to-back television coverage and street parties.


The opposition Congress, which led India's independence struggle and ruled the country almost uninterrupted for decades after its conclusion, is meanwhile a shadow of its former self and out of office in all but three of the country's 28 states.

Its leaders have sought to stitch together an alliance of more than two-dozen regionalist parties to present a united front against the BJP's well-oiled and well-funded electoral juggernaut. But the bloc has been plagued by disputes over seat-sharing deals, suffered the defection of one of its members to the government and has so far been unable to publicly agree which of its leaders will be its prime ministerial candidate.

Several party leaders in the alliance are the subject of active investigations or criminal proceedings, and critics have accused Modi's government of using law enforcement agencies to selectively target its political foes.

Rahul Gandhi — the most prominent Congress politician whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime ministers — was briefly disqualified from parliament last year after being convicted of criminal libel.

He faces at least 10 other defamation proceedings in courts around the country, many filed years ago by BJP officials and slowly snaking their way through India's glacial criminal justice system.


Gandhi, 53, has criticised the government for democratic backsliding and its chest-thumping Hindu nationalism, which have left many of the country's 210-million-strong Muslim minority fearful for their futures.

He has also called into question Modi's probity by highlighting his close ties to tycoon industrialist Gautam Adani, whose business empire saw a market meltdown last year after a US short-seller investment firm accused it of corporate fraud. But Gandhi has already led Congress to two successive humiliating defeats against Modi and there is no sign his efforts to dent the premier's popularity have registered with the public.

Published opinion polls are rare in India but a Pew survey last year found Modi was viewed favourably by nearly 80 per cent of Indians.

A February poll of urban voters conducted by YouGov showed the BJP comfortably leading India's manifold opposition parties among 47 per cent of those surveyed, while Congress was a dismal second at 11 per cent.

"Wherever I go, I can clearly see that Modi will become PM for the third time," Amit Shah, India's home minister and Modi's closest political ally, said in a speech this week.

A total of 970 million people are eligible to vote in the election — more than the entire population of the United States, European Union and Russia combined.

There will be more than a million polling stations in operation staffed by 15 million poll workers, according to the election commission.

Agence France-Presse/ Reuters

Related articles