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India’s Modi faces opponents in sixth phase of mammoth elections

Polling officials leave for polling stations after collecting electronic voting machines and other voting materials at a distribution center in New Delhi on May 24, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

The mammoth of a six-week-long election in India has recommenced, as the main opponents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who have accused him of unfairly singling them out for criminal investigations, are set to cast their votes in the capital city of New Delhi.

Elections were being held on Saturday for 58 seats in constituencies in the Union Territory of Delhi, and the states of Bihar, Bengal, Haryana, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir’s last constituency, where the polling was rescheduled from the third to the sixth phase.

The upcoming election in the national capital of Delhi is expected to be highly competitive, especially after septuagenarian Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all seven seats in 2019.

This time, one of Modi’s opponents and Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is aiming to secure a few seats.

Kejriwal, 55, a prominent figure in a diverse coalition aiming to overthrow the BJP, was imprisoned for several weeks this year due to an ongoing corruption investigation.

Earlier this month, Kejriwal was granted bail by the Supreme Court, enabling him to resume his campaign for his party. He is now fervently urging Indians to cast their votes against what he has labeled as an emerging “dictatorship”.

“Modi has started a very dangerous mission,” he said soon after his release. “Modi will send all opposition leaders to jail.”

AAP is competing for four seats in Delhi, while its ally and India’s main opposition party, Congress, is contesting for three seats.

In February, officials suspended multiple bank accounts belonging to Congress as a result of an ongoing disagreement regarding income tax filings from five years prior.

The party’s Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a family that ruled India for decades and Modi’s main competitor, stated that the action has significantly hindered the party’s capacity to participate in the election.

By the end of Saturday, the election process will have concluded in 486 out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats (the lower house of the parliament). Additionally, the polling will have been completed in Haryana, Delhi, and Jammu and Kashmir.

With close to a billion people eligible to vote, India is conducting voting in seven stages spread out over a period of six weeks in order to alleviate the significant logistical challenges associated with organizing an election in the most populous nation on Earth. For the seventh and last phase, 57 seats will be left to be contested.

The vote tallying will take place on June 4 following the conclusion of the final stage of the election on June 1.

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