India's acrimonious election comes to an end

Photo: AFP

Voting in one of India's most acrimonious elections in decades entered its final day Sunday as Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrambled to hang on to his overall majority.

The seventh and final round of voting ended the world's biggest election with 900 million eligible voters from Goa's beaches to Mumbai's slums and Ladakh's Himalayan monasteries.

Long queues formed outside polling stations in eight northern states electing the final 59 candidates to India's 543-seat lower house. Polls close at 1230 GMT with vote counting on Thursday.

Heavy security was imposed in West Bengal, which has seen street battles between followers of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition groups.

Fake news and doctored images have abounded, including of Gandhi and Modi having lunch with Imran Khan, prime minister of arch rival Pakistan, or of a drunk Priyanka Gandhi, a politician and the sister of Rahul.

Violence has also broken out.

Maoist rebels killed 15 troops and their driver in the western state of Maharashtra on May 1, the latest attack in a decades-long insurgency.

Gandhi, 48, has tried several lines of attack against Modi, in particular over alleged corruption in a French defence deal and over the plight of farmers and on the economy.

Modi's government has fallen short on creating jobs for the million Indians entering the labour market every month, the shock introduction of a cash ban in 2016 caused huge disruption to livelihoods, and Indian banks are gasping under bad debts.

Lynchings of Muslims and low-caste Dalits for eating beef, slaughtering and trading in cattle have risen during Modi's tenure, leaving some of the country's 170 million Muslims feeling threatened and anxious for their future

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