India’s national election reaches final phase – National


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Indians voted Sunday within the seventh and closing section of a grueling nationwide election that lasted greater than 5 weeks, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist celebration seeks to manipulate for one more 5 years.

The election is seen as a referendum on Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Social gathering. The BJP’s most important opposition is the Congress celebration, led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has produced three prime ministers.

Vote counting begins on Thursday, and the election end result will seemingly be recognized the identical day.

The voting Sunday coated Modi’s constituency of Varanasi, a holy Hindu metropolis the place he was elected in 2014 with a powerful margin of over 200,000 votes. Modi spent Saturday night time at Kedarnath, a temple of the Hindu god Shiva nestled within the Himalayas in northern India.

The ultimate election spherical included 59 constituencies in eight states. Up for grabs had been 13 seats in Punjab and an equal quantity in Uttar Pradesh, eight every in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, 9 in West Bengal, 4 in Himachal Pradesh and three in Jharkhand and Chandigarh.

In Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, voters lined up outdoors polling stations early Sunday morning to keep away from the scorching warmth, with temperatures reaching as much as 38 levels Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Armed safety officers stood guard in and out of doors the facilities amid concern of violence.

Whereas the election, which started April 11, was largely peaceable, West Bengal, positioned in jap India, was an exception. Modi is challenged there by the state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, who heads the extra inclusive Trinamool Congress celebration and is eyeing an opportunity to go to New Delhi because the opposition’s candidate for prime minister.

Modi visited West Bengal 17 occasions in an effort to make inroads together with his Hindu nationalist agenda, upsetting sporadic violence and prompting the Election Fee to chop off campaigning there.

On Sunday, Nirmala Sitharaman, a BJP chief and the nation’s protection minister, accused Banerjee’s supporters of attacking her celebration members and stopping them from voting at a number of locations in six of the 9 constituencies in West Bengal. She didn’t present particulars.

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Prodeep Chakrabarty, a retired instructor in Kolkata, stated Modi’s BJP was determined to win some seats towards Banerjee’s influential regional celebration.

“Individuals are divided for a lot of causes. We’ve got to attend for a closing final result to see who persons are voting for. Issues usually are not predictable like earlier than,” he stated.

Minorities in India, particularly Muslims, who comprise about 14 p.c of the nation’s 1.three billion folks, criticize Modi for his Hindu nationalist agenda. Modi’s celebration backed a invoice that may make it simpler to deport tens of millions of Bangladeshis who’ve migrated to India since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. The invoice, nonetheless, eases a path to citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees and Jains — non-Muslims — who got here from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan over a long time.

Voters had been additionally up early Sunday in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state, the place election staff organized for ingesting water, shade and followers to chill them down.

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“I straightaway got here from my morning stroll to solid my vote and was shocked to see enthusiasm among the many voters,” stated Ramesh Kumar Singh, who was among the many first to vote. “There have been lengthy queues of individuals ready patiently to solid their votes, which is an efficient signal for democracy.”

Through the election marketing campaign, Modi performed up the specter of Pakistan, India’s Muslim-majority neighbor and archrival, particularly after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy in Kashmir on Feb. 14 that killed 40 Indian troopers.

Congress and different opposition events have challenged Modi over a excessive unemployment fee of 6.1% and farmers’ misery aggravated by low crop costs.

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A few of Modi’s boldest coverage steps, such because the demonetization of excessive forex notes to curb black-market cash, proved to be economically damaging. A haphazard implementation of “one nation, one tax” — a items and companies tax — additionally hit small and medium companies.

Voter turnout within the first six rounds was roughly 66%, the Election Fee stated, up from 58% within the final nationwide vote in 2014.

Pre-election media polls point out that no celebration is more likely to win something near a majority in Parliament, which has 543 seats. The BJP, which received a majority of 282 seats in 2014, may have some regional events as allies to remain in energy.

A Congress-led authorities would require a serious electoral upset.

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