In the fourth round of a seven-week general election, India held voting on Monday, amid increasingly aggressive campaigning focused on religious and economic divides.

Nearly one billion people are eligible to vote in this seven-phase election, which got underway on April 19 in the most populous country in the world. Votes are scheduled to be tabulated on June 4.
In a race that sets his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of more than two dozen opposition parties, including chief foe Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is vying for a rare third term in office.

Voting has begun. “I appeal to all to vote for a decisive government,” declared Amit Shah, the nation’s home or interior minister and a close ally of Modi.

In the southern and eastern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha—where the BJP is not as powerful as it is in the north and west of the country—voting for 96 parliament seats took place on Monday.
The capital of the volatile Kashmir Valley, Srinagar, is also voting for the first time since Modi removed the region’s semi-autonomy in 2019. The BJP has decided not to run there because observers predict that the results will go against Modi’s narrative of a more integrated and peaceful Kashmir.

Bashir Ahmad Lala, 67, of Srinagar, stated, “I voted after over two decades… just to get relief from what we are facing here.”

Before the voting, opposition parties claimed that their employees had been arrested, a claim that the police refuted. As a result, the militarized area saw meetings restricted by law enforcement.
Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference party president and a former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, predicted that Modi and Shah “will definitely get defeated” on a national level.

A well-known Muslim member from Hyderabad, which is in the south and also held elections on Monday, Asaduddin Owaisi, claimed that the BJP was losing support as a result of Modi’s recent “venomous” remarks directed towards Muslims of color.

“A person is not greater than their nation. Thus, Modi is not the nation,” he continued. According to Modi, his government does not discriminate against Muslims.


The BJP and its partners are unlikely to win the landslide that opinion polls suggest, according to analysts, who also claim that Modi changed the direction of his campaign after the first phase due to decreased turnout.
Modi’s focus has switched from his financial track record to allegations that the Congress is preparing to give Muslim welfare benefits at the expense of underprivileged tribal tribes and Hindu castes.
He said last month that the Congress intended to divide the riches of Muslims, whom he called “infiltrators,” among those who are majority Hindu and had “more children.”

The BJP disputes the claim made by the Congress that it made any such pledges and that Modi is alarmed by the turnout.
India is home to 1.4 billion Hindus, or almost 80% of the world’s population, but it also boasts 200 million Muslims, making it the world’s third largest Muslim population. According to surveys, the two biggest concerns among voters are joblessness and inflation.
“I will cast my vote for an educated candidate who can improve our community,” declared Pradipta Kumar Sethi, an Odisha native from the tribal Koraput district.

The Congress is advocating for increased representation and social programs for underprivileged and impoverished people, claiming that under Modi’s ten-year reign, wealth disparity has increased. The administration has refuted this claim.
“Refrain from being discouraged by diversionary strategies of hate speech that create division in society,” stated Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge in an address to voters.


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