Indians voted on Sunday in the second-to-last round of a seven-phase general election, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a diverse group of opposition parties seeking to deny him a second term.
Sunday’s voting in 59 constituencies, including seven in New Delhi, the capital, will complete polling for 483 of 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting for the remaining 60 seats will be held on May 19, and vote counting begins four days later.
India has 900 million voters. Turnout in the first five phases averaged 67%, nearly the same as in 2014 elections that brought Modi to power.
The president of the main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, said the main issues in the election were unemployment, economic hardship in the countryside, the de-monetization of bank notes and a new sales tax.
Gandhi cast his ballot Sunday in the capital, where he is registered as a voter, though he is contesting from two constituencies – family bastion Amethi in the north and Wayanad in the south – to project an all-India image. He will have to give up one seat if he wins in both places.
Saying it has been a good fight against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, Gandhi told reporters, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi used hatred, we used love. It seems that love is going to win.”
Opinion polls say Modi’s BJP continues to be the front-runner, but it is likely to return with a lesser total of 282 seats. The BJP captured 31% of the votes in 2014, but it won more than half the seats to wrest power from the Congress party in a first-past-the-post electoral system in which a candidate who receives the most votes wins.