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India’s Marathon General Election Begins with First and Largest Phase of Polls

On Friday, India embarked on its marathon general election, commencing the first and largest phase of voting in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks an unprecedented third consecutive term.

A staggering 969 million people are eligible to vote in what is deemed the largest election in human history, spanning seven phases over the next six weeks across the world’s most populous country.

This nationwide exercise holds immense significance as Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aims for a decisive mandate to further its developmental and Hindu-nationalist agenda, which has shaped India’s economic and cultural landscape during its decade-long rule.

Under Modi’s leadership, India has experienced remarkable economic growth, emerging as the world’s fastest-growing major economy and asserting itself as a modern global power. However, his tenure has also been marked by challenges, including escalating youth unemployment, rural inequality, and accusations of religious polarization, particularly against the backdrop of rising Islamophobia and persecution of Muslims.

Despite these challenges, Modi maintains unparalleled popularity among Indian voters, evident in the massive turnouts at his rallies. The BJP’s campaign manifesto focuses on job creation, poverty alleviation, national development, and ambitious goals such as making India a global manufacturing hub and achieving energy independence by 2047.

On the international stage, Modi aims to elevate India’s stature by seeking permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council, bidding for the 2036 Summer Olympics, and pursuing space exploration, including landing an astronaut on the moon.

Meanwhile, India’s main opposition, the Indian National Congress, along with its newly formed INDIA alliance, aims to counter the BJP’s dominance by emphasizing democratic values, social justice, and minority rights in its campaign. The Congress party’s manifesto promises to uphold freedoms enshrined in the constitution, protect minority rights, and address issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and women’s empowerment.

As voters across 21 states and union territories cast their ballots electronically, key battleground states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal will play pivotal roles in shaping the electoral outcome. These states, along with others in the northeast and remote territories like the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, will contribute to the intricate mosaic of India’s democratic process over the coming weeks.

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