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India begins voting with Hindu nationalist Modi as favorite

India begins à vote on Friday in general elections that Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems almost assured. to win face à an opposition à the punishment.

A long queue formed in front of a polling station as soon as it opened in Haridwar, an important Hindu pilgrimage site on the banks of the Ganges and one of the first towns to vote in the framework of these elections.

Mr. Modi immediately urged voters in the first phase of voting, which includes seven, to “exercise their right to vote in record numbers”, particularly young people and those voting for the first time.

“Every vote counts and every vote is important,” he added on the social network he reminded voters, on the same platform, that their “vote can end inflation, unemployment, hatred and injustice”, and to emphasize: “Make sure you vote”, “Don't don't forget to vote”.

In total, 968 million Indians are called to elect the 543 members of the lower house, which is more than the total population of the United States. United, the European Union and Russia united.

Elections run until June 1, with more than a million polling stations across the country.

Ballots across the country will be counted on June 4. Results are usually announced the same day.

Mr. Modi, aged 73, is still very popular after two terms, during which India increased its diplomatic influence and economic weight.

India begins voting with Hindu nationalist Modi as favorite

Voters prepare to vote during the Indian legislative elections at a polling station in Haridwar, in the state of Uttarakhand, on April 19, 2024. © AFP – Arun SANKAR

A 2023 Pew survey indicated that Mr. Modi was viewed favorably by nearly 80% of Indians.

He has already given to the nationalist party Hindu Bharatiya Janata (BJP) two landslide victories in 2014 and 2019 by playing on the religious fiber of the Hindu electorate.

This year, he inaugurated in the city of 'Ayodhya a large temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Ram, built on the site of a centuries-old mosque destroyed by Hindu fanatics.

This event, eagerly awaited by its activists, benefited from extensive media coverage and public festivities throughout India.

Political analysts have already given him the victory against a coalition of opposition parties which has not yet named its candidate for the post of Prime Minister.

– “Model of Repression” –

His prospects have been bolstered by several criminal investigations against his opponents.

Congress bank accounts have been frozen since February by the Indian tax authorities, following a dispute over tax returns dating back five years ago.

“We have no money to campaign, we cannot support our candidates,” warned its leader Rahul Gandhi in March. “Our ability to fight the electoral battle has been damaged.”

Mr. Gandhi, 53, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, was briefly removed from Parliament last year after being convicted of defamation.

Presented by Mr. Modi as disconnected from Indian reality, Mr. Gandhi sought to get closer to the population by organizing two marches across the country.

But after two successive defeats against Mr. Modi, there is no sign that his efforts to undermine the Prime Minister's popularity are crowned with success.

He accuses the government of a certain democratic backsliding and castigates its appeals to the majority faith of India, to the detriment of significant minorities, including 210 million Muslim Indians, worried about their future.

Mr. Modi's mandates were marked by “a model of repression aimed at undermining democracy and civic space”, the association denounced on Wednesday advocacy group CIVICUS in a report.

– Opposition neutralized –

The Congress, which ruled the country almost continuously for decades after India's independence, is a shadow of its former self and only governs in three of the country's 28 states.

Its leaders formed a coalition with more than twenty regional parties to confront the BJP and its well-oiled and generously financed electoral machinery.

But the bloc is beset by disputes over seat-sharing agreements and has suffered the defection of one of its leaders to the government.

The coalition accuses Mr. Modi's government of using justice to neutralize certain opposition leaders like Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Arrested in March, the latter is currently in detention, his party having been accused of having received bribes in exchange for alcohol licenses granted to private companies.

Under Mr. Modi's mandate, India has become the fifth largest economy in the world ahead of the United Kingdom, the former colonial power.

And Western countries are rushing to court this potential ally to fight against the growing assertiveness of China, a great rival in the region, despite the warnings of defenders rights on the decline in press freedom.

Since Mr. Modi came to power in 2014, India has lost 21 places in the ranking World Press Freedom Index established by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), ranking 161st out of 180 countries.


All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116