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World’s largest election in progress

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India, home to the Taj Mahal, Bollywood, yoga, the Bengal tiger, and over 1.4 billion people, is witnessing the world’s largest democratic exercise. Nearly a billion voters have participated in India’s general election, which began six weeks ago and is now concluding.

New Delhi, with its 33 million residents, serves as the political hub of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have held power for the past decade, aiming now for a “super-majority” in Parliament. Modi’s campaign slogan, “abki baar, char sau paar,” translates to “this time, we’ll cross 400 seats,” indicating their ambitious target.

Modi, a popular but divisive figure, is praised for driving India’s economic growth, positioning it as the world’s third-largest economy. However, the wealth gap remains significant, with the top 10% holding 77% of the wealth. Modi and the BJP face accusations of marginalizing India’s 14% Muslim minority, a concern amid their push for a super-majority.

India’s complex electoral system requires a party to secure at least 272 out of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament. This year, 969 million voters were eligible, with polling stations set up within two kilometers of every voter, totaling 1.5 million stations across the vast country.

The election has seen a slight drop in voter turnout, attributed to intense heat and possible voter apathy. The BJP’s traditional support base may feel complacent, believing the outcome is already decided.

The BJP’s main rival, the Indian National Congress, has formed a coalition known as INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance). Rahul Gandhi, a key opposition leader, has campaigned to unite Indians against division. Despite this, opinion polls show the BJP leading.

Modi’s strongman image and economic achievements have bolstered his popularity. India’s GDP grew by 8.4% to $3.7 trillion in 2023, making it the world’s fastest-growing economy. However, concerns about democratic freedoms under Modi’s rule persist.

Uttar Pradesh, with 240 million people and 80 parliamentary seats, is crucial for a BJP victory. While support for Modi remains strong, it has slightly declined since 2014. The BJP also faces challenges in southern India, where the opposition has traditionally been stronger.

As the final day of polling approaches, the world watches to see if Modi and the BJP can achieve their super-majority goal. The outcome will shape India’s political landscape and impact its future direction, both domestically and on the global stage.

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