India election underway as nearly 1bn voters take part in world's biggest election

India election underway as nearly 1bn voters take part in world's biggest election

- India's general election starts yesterday, Thursday, 11 April

- About 900 million eligible voters will be participating in the election, which will continue until 19 May

- The election, the largest ever, will take place at n one million polling stations

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India's general election has commenced as tens of millions of Indians across 20 states and union territories are voting in 91 constituencies.

Not fewer than 900 million eligible voters across the country are participating in the election, making it the largest election ever seen, according to BBC.

The seven-phase vote to elect a new lower house of parliament will continue until 19 May. Vote counting is scheduled for Thursday, 23 May.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a historic landslide in the last elections in 2014.

BJP versus Congress party

The BJP faces challenges from Congress Party, which is led by Rahul Gandhi. Gandhi's father, grandmother and great-grandfather are all former Indian prime ministers.

The 2019 election is reportedly viewed by many Indians as a referendum on the prime minister, Modi, as some critics say his promises of economic growth and job creation haven't met expectations and India has become more religiously polarised under his leadership.

Under Modi, hundreds of millions of Indians have escaped poverty since the turn of the millennium but the country's economy appears to have lost some of its momentum.

Although annual GDP growth has hovered at around 7%, unemployment is a major concern.

Modi's government has also been accused of hiding uncomfortable jobs data.

Modi encouraged Indians in a tweet on Thursday morning to “turn out in record numbers and exercise their franchise”, singling out the 45 million young people who have been added to the voters' roll since 2014.

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About 900 million Indians who are above the age of 18 will be eligible to cast their ballots at one million polling stations.

According to India's electoral laws, no voter is meant to have to travel more than two kilometres to reach a polling station.

With the large number of voters and enormous number of election officials and security personnel involved, voting will take place in seven stages between 11 April and 19 May.

The states starting the election on Thursday include: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar islands and Lakshadweep.

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Meanwhile, it was previously reported that political parties in India are spending a lot of money for the purpose of creating hundreds of thousands of WhatsApp group chats to spread political messages and memes.

Plans were said to have been drawn up by BJP to have three WhatsApp groups for each of India’s 927,533 polling booths.

A WhatsApp group contains a maximum of 256 members. This means that the number of group chats that will be created by BJP could theoretically reach more than 700 million people out of India’s population of 1.3 billion.

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