Indians go to polls in first round of voting in general elections

Voters line up outside a polling station to vote during the first phase of the general election at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, India, April 19, 2024. REUTERS/ Navesh Chitrakar

KAIRANA/CHENNAI, India (Reuters) -The first of India’s almost one billion voters cast ballots on Friday, April 19, 2024, in the country’s multi-day election, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a rare third term on the back of issues such as growth, welfare and Hindu nationalism.

The vote pits Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of two dozen opposition parties that promise greater affirmative action and more handouts while stressing what they call the need to save democratic institutions.

Nearly 970 million people are eligible to vote in the seven-phase exercise, the world’s largest election, which runs through the peak of summer until June 1, with results set for June 4.

Election Commission figures after polls closed on Friday’s first day of voting estimated voter turnout at 60%, with the small northeastern state of Tripura top of the list at 80% and the northwestern state of Rajasthan at the bottom with 51%.

“Polling for the first phase…recorded high voter turnout despite the heat wave,” the panel said. “The voting percentage is likely to go upwards when reports from all polling stations are obtained.”

Friday’s vote covered 166 million voters in 102 constituencies across 21 states and territories, from Tamil Nadu in the south to Arunachal Pradesh on the Himalayan frontier with China.

Opinion polls have suggested the BJP will easily win a majority, even though voters worry about unemployment, inflation and rural distress in the world’s most populous country and fastest growing major economy.

“Modi will come back to power, because apart from the religious push, his other work, in areas such as safety and security, is good,” said Abdul Sattar, 32, a Muslim voter in the city of Kairana in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

Jobs were the chief concern for Mohammed Shabbir, another Muslim voter in Kairana. None of his eight children had regular employment, the 60-year-old driver said.

“Even the Hindus are affected by a lack of jobs,” he said, adding that the problem outweighed the appeal of Hindu nationalism in the Hindu-majority nation.


In Tamil Nadu, one of India’s most developed states where the BJP is weak, voters seemed divided on whether Modi’s strong push this time round would benefit his party.

“Modi has made India a peaceful country, particularly for Hindus,” said S. Rajagopal, a three-wheel taxi driver in the state capital of Chennai.

“The BJP may not boost its vote share in Tamil Nadu but nationwide, Modi will win hands down again.”

However, V. Parasuraman, 55, a businessman in construction, said the BJP had done little for Tamil Nadu, adding, “People here are educated and … won’t fall for Modi’s sugar-coated words.”

The BJP campaign focuses on Modi’s guarantee to deliver on promises to voters.

“The country has made up its mind,” Modi said at a campaign rally on Friday.

“After today’s first round of voting, there is one thing visible…the country wants a strong, stable government”, and voting for the opposition alliance “is as good as wasting your vote”, he said.

Campaigning continues during the election process for seats that are scheduled to vote in later phases.

Victory for Modi would make him only the second Indian prime minister to be elected three times in a row, after post-independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here