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India election: As the Modi vs. Gandhi campaign heats up, voting is now in its second round.

Photo-REUTERS

India commenced the second phase of its colossal election on Friday, marking another crucial step in the world's largest democratic exercise. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his political adversaries ramping up their campaign efforts, contentious issues like religious discrimination, affirmative action, and taxation have taken center stage. Spanning seven phases from April 19 to June 1, the general elections aim to encompass nearly one billion eligible voters, with vote counting scheduled for June 4.

Modi, vying for a third consecutive term, is leveraging his economic achievements, welfare initiatives, nationalist rhetoric, and personal popularity to seek another mandate. Despite facing formidable challenges, surveys indicate a strong likelihood of Modi securing a comfortable majority. In contrast, his opponents have formed a coalition of over two dozen parties, advocating for increased affirmative action, expanded welfare schemes, and an end to perceived autocratic governance under Modi's leadership.

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The second phase of polling involves 88 parliamentary seats out of a total of 543, with approximately 160 million eligible voters casting their ballots across 13 states and union territories. A significant portion of these seats is located in the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka, along with the northwestern state of Rajasthan. As the campaign intensifies, Modi and the main opposition Congress party have engaged in heated exchanges over communal issues, with Modi accusing Congress of favoring minority groups and undermining affirmative action.

Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, has refuted these allegations, emphasizing concerns such as unemployment, inflation, and rural distress. Gandhi, a key figure in the electoral battle, is contesting from Wayanad in Kerala and faces stiff competition from opponents representing various political parties. Despite securing a landslide victory in Kerala in the previous election, Gandhi aims to consolidate his position amidst a challenging political landscape.

While Congress seeks to make significant gains, it faces internal challenges and legal controversies that have hindered its nationwide appeal. The Election Commission and political parties have expressed concerns about voter turnout, particularly due to the prevailing summer heat and concurrent wedding season in certain regions. Despite these challenges, the electoral process continues to unfold, underlining the vibrant democratic spirit of India as voters exercise their right to choose their representatives.

April 26, 2024 1:03 p.m. 8320

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