NEW DELHI: There was brisk polling Thursday in the second phase of the Indian election, with people in 13 states casting their votes.
Around 900 million Indians are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in the country’s lower house of Parliament.
The national election, the world’s largest democratic exercise, is seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The first phase of the election began on April 11. The second saw voting in 97 parliamentary constituencies and was spread out from the north to the south of the country.
The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has a history of voting overwhelmingly in favor of one party, with that party playing a crucial role in the formation of a government in New Delhi.
In 2014, the regional All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (AIADMK) party won 37 seats and helped the BJP to a two-thirds majority.
“The BJP is banking on AIADMK to repeat the 2014 performance but this time it’s not easy,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, from the Observer Research Foundation.
“The BJP has been very desperate to seal a strong alliance in Tamil Nadu. It knows that it’s not possible for them to get the same number of seats from north India this time. Therefore, Tamil Nadu becomes crucial in forming the government in Delhi,” he said.
“But this time it’s not going to be easy for the BJP in Tamil Nadu. Opinion polls favor a sweep by the opposition Congress party-led alliance,” he told Arab News.
The BJP, on the other hand, was confident and predicted its allies were poised for a landslide win.
“We are 100 percent sure that we will form the government,” said Sudesh Verma, national BJP spokesman.
“We will not only retain seats in Tamil Nadu but also improve our performances in other states. There is an undercurrent in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
In Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, there was low voter turnout amid high security.
News agency AFP reported that authorities had deployed tens of thousands of security forces in the state, with troops, paramilitaries and police flooding Srinagar.
Kashmir leapt to the forefront of Modi’s campaign after a February suicide bomb attack killed 40 paramilitaries and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
“The government thought that by arresting separatist leaders and civil society activists people will come out to vote,” Prof. Sheikh Showkat Hussain of Central University of Kashmir, told Arab News. “But the reverse has happened today. The boycott of the election is more intense today than before. The election should be an eye- opener for the government, that you cannot put people of Kashmir into submission. By using brute force, democracy in the valley has become stigmatized.”
The election is taking place in seven phases and voting concludes on May 19. Counting takes place on May 23.