World, Front Page

India goes to polls today

Published : 18 Apr 2024 10:09 PM

The first of seven phases of the Indian national election is set to kick off on April 19. These elections are for the 543 seats of the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament. The party or coalition that secures a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha will form the next government.

It is the world’s – and history’s – largest ever democratic exercise, with 969 million registered voters eligible to cast their vote using 5.5 million electronic voting machines over 44 days. The votes will be counted and results will be announced on June 4.

As a multiparty democracy, India’s elections will see a range of national and regional parties competing for votes. But two principal coalitions are directly facing off as contenders to lead the nation: the National Democratic Alliance  (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and a coalition of 26 parties, called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), led by the main opposition, the Indian National Congress.

Who votes in phase 1?

In the first phase, 102 constituencies within 21 states and union territories are voting, including:

Tamil Nadu: All 39 of the state’s seats

Rajasthan: Twelve out of the state’s 25 seats

Uttar Pradesh: Eight out of the state’s 80 seats

Madhya Pradesh: Six out of the state’s 29 seats

Maharashtra: Five out of the state’s 48 seats

Uttarakhand: All five of the state’s seats

Assam: Five out of the state’s 14 seats

Bihar: Four out of the state’s 40 seats

West Bengal: Three out of the state’s 42 seats

Arunachal Pradesh: Both of the state’s two seats

Manipur: Both of the state’s two seats

Meghalaya: Both of the state’s two seats

Chhattisgarh: One out of the state’s 11 seats

Mizoram: The state’s sole seat

Nagaland: The state’s sole seat

Sikkim: The state’s sole seat

Tripura: One out of the state’s two seats

Jammu and Kashmir: One out of five seats

Andaman and Nicobar Islands: The union territory’s sole seat

Lakshadweep: The union territory’s sole seat

Puducherry: The union territory’s sole seat

Which are some of the key constituencies voting on April 19?

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu: Prime Minister Modi’s BJP has traditionally struggled to break through the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where it won zero out of the 39 seats in 2019. This time, the party is betting on a rising star, the party’s state leader K Annamalai, to deliver an unlikely win from Coimbatore.

Nagpur, Maharashtra: Federal transport minister Nitin Gadkari – a senior BJP leader who some political analysts view as a potential challenger to Modi – is contesting from Nagpur, a city famous for its oranges. Nagpur is also the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu majoritarian umbrella group that is the ideological mentor of the BJP.

Manipur: Both of the state’s two seats will vote in part in the first phase on April 19, and in part in the second phase, on April 26. The elections are being held in the backdrop of ethnic strife that has effectively fractured Manipur between its plains – where the majority Meitei community predominantly lives – and the hills – where the Kuki community lives. More than 200 people have been killed in clashes since last May between the two communities, with many blaming the state’s BJP government for a biased role and for its failure to stop the violence. Will it pay a political price?

Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh: The epicentre of anti-Muslim riots in 2013 that some observers believe helped the BJP win big in India’s most populous state in 2014 (72 out of 80 seats), Muzaffarnagar votes on April 19. The constituency, and its neighbouring seats, have a significant Muslim population, but the BJP’s ability to consolidate Hindu votes helped it win in 2014 and 2019.

When does voting start and end?

Voting will start at 7am local time (01:30 GMT) and end at 6pm local time (12:30 GMT). Voters in the queue by closing time get to vote even if that means keeping polling booths open longer.

Who rules states that vote in the first phase?

Tamil Nadu is governed by an alliance led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam,  comprising parties from India.

The BJP rules in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.

The BJP is also in power through alliances in Maharashtra, Bihar, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Puducherry.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep are federally governed with no democratically elected government. Jammu and Kashmir is also ruled from New Delhi, with no state elections since the Modi government scrapped its special status in 2019.

West Bengal is governed by the All India Trinamool Congress Party, a part of the INDIA alliance.

A coalition of six regional parties, the Zoram People’s Movement, governs Mizoram.