Modi casts his vote as giant Indian election reaches half-way mark

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks alongside Amit Shah, Indian Home Minister and leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the day he casts his vote, outside a polling station during the third phase of the general election, in Ahmedabad, India, May 7, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

(Roundup from Reuters news reports) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi voted early on Tuesday as India held the third phase of a massive general election, when seats in his home state Gujarat and 10 other regions will be decided.

The world’s most populous nation began voting on April 19 in a seven-phase election in which nearly one billion people are eligible to vote, with ballots set to be counted on June 4.

Voter turnout, however, has been a concern as the first two phases registered marginally lower numbers compared to 2019 polls and initial figures from the Election Commission showed a fall on Tuesday as well at 61.45%, compared to around 66% in the same phase five years back.

Indian polling officials travel by boat to reach rural communities in phase three of the general election. PHOTO: Screenshot from Reuters video April 7, 2024

Modi is seeking a rare, third straight term in a vote which pits his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of more than two dozen opposition parties. Surveys suggest he will win a comfortable majority.

Modi cast his ballot in the Gandhinagar constituency where his number two, Home Minister Amit Shah, is the BJP candidate.

He urged citizens to actively participate in the “festival of democracy”, while taking care of their health as summer temperatures continued to rise in many parts of the country.

Modi being greeted in Vijayawada, while campaigning in 3rd phase of election voting May 7, 2024. PHOTO: screenshot from video on X @narendramodi

Clad in saffron and white, he was surrounded by hundreds of supporters and party members, signing autographs and talking to children on the way to the polling station.

Modi’s campaign began by showcasing his economic record, welfare measures, national pride and personal popularity.
The BJP relies heavily on his popularity, with his image adorning everything from sacks of rice handed out to the poor to large posters in cities and towns.
Modi toned down his campaign strategy of firing up BJP’s Hindu base before the 3rd phase.
In an interview with broadcaster Times Now aired on Monday, April 6, Modi said he does not oppose Islam or Muslims and wants the community to think about their future growth as they vote.
Tuesday’s polling covered 93 seats in 11 states and territories, with Gujarat and Maharashtra in the west and Karnataka in the south accounting for 50 seats. That would complete voting for 283 of parliament’s 543 elected seats.
In the 2019 elections, the BJP won more than 70 of 93 seats up for grabs on Tuesday, but faces tougher contests this time as the main opposition Congress party has gained strength in Karnataka and a regional partner has split in Maharashtra.
Voter turnout of 66.14% and 66.71% respectively in the first two phases has been marginally lower than corresponding phases five years back, with analysts blaming the summer heat and the lack of a single strong issue to motivate voters.
The Election Commission has since stepped up a campaign to encourage people to vote while consulting with weather officials and health and disaster management agencies to deal with the impact of the heat wave on Tuesday’s vote.
Among those who voted in Gujarat was Gautam Adani, the billionaire chairman of the Adani Group conglomerate.
“Today is the festival of democracy and I appeal to people to come out and vote,” he told reporters after voting. “India is moving forward and will continue to do so.”

Extracts from Reuters:

In an earlier news analysis, Reuters reported that BJP and its allies have targeted 400 of the 543 seats in India’s lower house of parliament – up from 352 won in 2019.

Opinion polls indicate Modi will win a rare third term when voting ends on June 1. But only once in Indian history has a party crossed the 400 mark – when the Congress party romped to victory following the assassination of its leader Indira Gandhi in 1984.

… “A combination of strategies, organizational commitment and tactical flexibility will help make inroads in seats never held by the party ever before,” BJP President J. P. Nadda, who oversees the party’s election strategy, told Reuters in April.

… Nadda, the BJP president, acknowledged that winning a supermajority would require performing well in the five southern states, which are home to about 20% of India’s population but have not traditionally voted for his party.

In 2019, the NDA won just 31 of 130 seats across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, all of which are linguistically diverse and have many Muslim and Christian voters.

Jiji Joseph, general secretary of the BJP’s minority wing in Kerala, said the party has made a concerted push for the 18% of voters there who are Christians. The BJP did not win a single seat in Kerala at the last general election.

“The BJP launched active contact with the Church and we started interacting with clergies directly,” he said, adding that the party now has 11,000 active Christian members. “There is a change. Christians now want to believe that BJP stands for them.”


In the Mandi constituency of the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, the BJP has recruited Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut to break the Congress party’s grip on power. Congress is fielding as its candidate Vikramaditya Singh, whose mother currently represents the constituency. His father was the state’s long-time chief minister.

Ranaut, a political novice who calls herself a “glorious right-wing” personality, has starred in popular movies with nationalistic themes. She is known for her criticism of Bollywood executives who she said favored the relatives of famous actors for opportunities.

Bollywood actress turned politician, campaigning. Posted May 9, 2024. PHOTO: Screenshot from video on X @KanganaTeam

The actress is one of five actors running for the BJP this year, up from four in 2019.

… fielding celebrities and seeking the endorsement of entertainment personalities is relatively new for the BJP, which “long resisted such tactics because of its cadre-based nature” that prized grassroots efforts, said Milan Vaishnav, an expert on South Asian politics at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank.

Ranaut declined an interview request. Federal BJP spokesman Shahzad Poonawala said she “has been successful in exposing dynastic culture and nepotism in Bollywood and now she is doing the same in politics.”

The NDA is hoping for gains in the northeastern state of Assam, where it won nine of 14 seats in 2019. Assam’s BJP chief minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said in March he was confident of winning 13 seats.

The NDA’s confidence is rooted in a 2023 redistricting exercise in the state. India’s non-partisan Election Commission routinely redraws seat boundaries to reflect population changes; it is tasked with ensuring that no political party gains undue advantage from the changes.



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