Voting began in the third and largest phase of India’s staggered general election on Tuesday, including in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat and in opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi’s seat in southern Kerala.
In all, 188 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in 117 constituencies during the day across 15 states and federally controlled territories. India’s parliament has 545 members.
The general election, which has seven phases, began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
“This is, sort of, an inflection point,” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank. More than half of India’s parliamentary constituencies will have voted by the end of the third phase.
So far, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has aggressively pushed Modi’s national security record as it seeks to offset the opposition’s charges of economic mishandling, inadequate jobs creation and widespread farm distress.
“I think job creation, sustainable development, and communal harmony should be the top priorities for the upcoming government,” said Ubaidullah Mohyideen, 26, who voted on Tuesday in Kerala’s Wayanad, one of the two seats that Gandhi is contesting.
Focus on national security
Jayendra Singh, 44, a businessman in the state’s capital, Gandhinagar, also voted early on Tuesday and said the economy, women’s safety and unemployment were major issues for him.
However, he disapproved of Modi talking up the air strike in Pakistan, which led to aerial clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals.
“There shouldn’t be any marketing of this. That’s what I personally feel,” Singh said.