NEW DELHI, March 10, 2019
- India announced Sunday a general election to be held over nearly six weeks starting on April 11. From April 11 to May 19 voters will elect 543 lawmakers to India's lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, which governs the Asian nation of 1.25 billion people from the capital New Delhi, the electoral commission said Sunday.
Some 900 million voters are eligible to vote for a new government for the next five years in an enormous democratic undertaking.
Counting will be completed and results announced on May 23, it said.
The poll will see right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi run for a second term against Rahul Gandhi of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty to lead the world's second-most populous nation.
"The festival of democracy. Elections are here," Modi posted on Twitter late Sunday.
"I hope this election witnesses a historic turnout," he added, encouraging first-time voters to cast their ballots in record numbers.
Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gandhi's left-leaning Congress are the two strongest challengers among hundreds of political parties from across the culturally and geographically diverse country.
Modi, whose right-wing party won an outright majority in the 2014 elections, enters the race in a strong position, the 68-year-old remaining a popular figure and the BJP a well-oiled political machine. But opinion polls have suggested ebbing support for the BJP, and even that it may fall short of the 272 seats it needs to form a government on its own.
Congress, which has ruled India for much of its time since independence from Britain in 1947, won three key state election victories in December, chipping into Modi's core support base in the Hindi "Cow Belt" regions home to nearly half a billion voters.
He has also gone on the offensive over Modi's economic record, with the Congress state wins attributed to the prime minister's perceived failure to help impoverished farmers and to create enough jobs. AFP.
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