VARANASI, India: Voting in one among India’s most acrimonious elections in a long time entered its last day Sunday as Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrambled to hold on to his general majority.
Polls shut at 6:00 pm (1230 GMT) within the seventh and last spherical of voting, ending the world’s largest election with 900 million eligible voters from Goa’s seashores to Mumbai’s slums and Ladakh’s Himalayan monasteries.
Lengthy queues fashioned exterior polling stations in eight northern states electing the ultimate 59 candidates to India’s 543-seat decrease home.
Heavy safety was imposed in West Bengal state, which has seen avenue battles between followers of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata occasion and opposition teams.
Modi’s constituency in Varanasi, the holy metropolis in Uttar Pradesh state, was additionally amongst these to vote.
The conservative BJP has campaigned aggressively on Modi’s strongman picture and performed up current cross-border air strikes in opposition to Pakistan. However the opposition, led by the Congress occasion and its chief Rahul Gandhi, have accused him of pursuing divisive insurance policies and neglecting the economic system.
Modi and Gandhi have hurled insults at one another on a close to every day foundation with the prime minister calling his rival a “idiot” whereas Gandhi derides Modi as a “thief”.
– Jaded voters –
The animosity has taken a toll on voters.
“All of the abuse and misconduct claims recommend that requirements in Indian politics have slipped badly,” Asit Banerjee, a historical past instructor in Kolkata, stated as he queued to vote.
“Limitless mudslinging and bitter feedback pervaded the marketing campaign. We’re shedding hope in a democracy it’s time for a reset,” the 60-year-old advised AFP.
Writing within the Hindustan Occasions, political commentator Karan Thapar stated that Modi’s message “performed on our insecurities and strummed upon our deep internal fears”. He additionally criticised Gandhi’s marketing campaign.
Pollsters say Modi stays personally in style however his occasion’s general majority is in danger from a backlash in opposition to the federal government.
The 68-year-old Modi has held 142 rallies throughout India in the course of the marketing campaign, typically 5 per day, however pollsters say the BJP might lose dozens of the 282 seats it gained in its 2014 landslide triumph.
All votes from the seven rounds might be counted on Thursday with the primary tendencies to be introduced the identical day.
– Religious retreat –
On Saturday Modi, wearing an extended gown and saffron sash, trekked to a Himalayan shrine to meditate, with photos displaying him seated on a mattress inside a holy cave within the nation’s north.
Hoping to change into the fourth member of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to steer India, Rahul Gandhi has struggled to make himself heard above the din of the BJP’s marketing campaign juggernaut.
The Delhi-based Centre for Media Research estimates that the outlay on this election might prime $7 billion, making it one of many priciest contests globally — with the lion’s share of the spending by the BJP.
Numerous it has been spent on social media, with the events utilizing armies of “cyber warriors” to bombard India’s lots of of hundreds of thousands of Fb and WhatsApp customers with messages.
Faux information and doctored photos have abounded, together with of Gandhi and Modi having lunch with Imran Khan, prime minister of arch rival Pakistan, or of a drunk Priyanka Gandhi, a politician and the sister of Rahul.
Violence has additionally damaged out. Maoist rebels killed 15 troops and their driver within the western state of Maharashtra on Could 1, the most recent assault in a decades-long insurgency.
Gandhi, 48, has tried a number of strains of assault in opposition to Modi, particularly over alleged corruption in a French defence deal — he calls Modi a “liar” — and over the plight of farmers and on the economic system.
Modi’s authorities has fallen quick on creating jobs for the million Indians coming into the labour market each month, the shock introduction of a money ban in 2016 brought about enormous disruption to livelihoods, and Indian banks are gasping underneath dangerous money owed.
Lynchings of Muslims and low-caste Dalits for consuming beef, slaughtering and buying and selling in cattle have risen throughout Modi’s tenure, leaving a number of the nation’s 170 million Muslims feeling threatened and anxious for his or her future.—AFP