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Indian Lok Sabha elections to begin on April 11

Khaleej Times 2019-03-11 08:36:46

India's Election Commission announced on Sunday that the upcoming national election will be held in seven phases in April and May, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party seeks a second term.

About 900 million people are eligible to vote in a staggered process that allows the government to deploy tens of thousands of troops to prevent outbreaks of violence and the capture of voting stations by party activists.

Election schedule:

1st phase - April 11
2nd phase - April 18
3rd phase - April 23
4th phase - April 29
5th phase - May 6
6th phase - May 12
7th phase - May 19
Counting - May 23

Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said the election will be held April 11, 18, 23 and 29, and May 6, 12 and 19. The votes will be counted May 23.

Modi's BJP hopes the government's recent tough stand against Pakistan will help it retain its popularity despite suffering a setback in December, when it lost three key state elections to the opposition Congress party.

Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on February 26, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a February 14 suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down two Indian planes and capturing a pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was later returned to India.

Since then, Modi and BJP leaders have been projecting the party and its leaders as decisive and tough on national security. The opposition parties have taken a strong umbrage at Modi and the ruling party, accusing him of using national security matters to try to influence voters.

On Saturday, the Election Commission ordered political parties to tell their candidates and leaders not to display photographs of defense personnel in advertisements as part of their election campaigns.

The commission said armed forces are "apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a modern democracy".

The order came after billboards featuring the BJP, including Modi and the party's president, Amit Shah, along with air force pilot Varthaman, appeared in parts of the country.

While it is too early to speculate on whether Modi's toughened stand will help the BJP, the December election setback is expected to revive the political fortunes of the Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the 48-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Gandhi, who took over as party president from his mother, Sonia Gandhi, in 2017, is also trying to bring disparate opposition parties together with his party as the main threat to Modi.

Phase 1 - 91 consti. in 20 states to go to polls
phase 2 - 97 consti. in 13 states
phase 3 - 115 consti. in 14 states
phase 4 - 71 consti. in 9 states
phase 5 - 51 consti. in 7 states
phase 6 - 59 consti. in 7 states
phase 7 - 59 consti. in 8 states#LokSabhaElection2019

- PIB India (@PIB_India) March 10, 2019

#LokSabhaElections2019 schedule as announced by #ElectionCommission

- PIB India (@PIB_India) March 10, 2019

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