Indian elections come one step closer to culmination as sixth stage commences

People have their names confirmed in voters’ lists as they come to cast their ballots outside a polling station during the sixth phase of India‘s general election in Karnal, in the northern state of Haryana, India on May 25, 2024. — Reuters

Over 111 million eligible to vote in sixth phase.Voting occurring in 58 constituencies across 8 states.Concerns raised regarding low voter turnout due to weather.NEW DELHI: Indian elections have drawn a step closer to conclusion as the sixth phase, out of the total seven, began with over 111 million eligible to vote in the second-to-last stage of the elections.The polls, now taking place in 58 constituencies across eight states and federal territories, include the capital territory and the northern pivotal states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.However, officials have voiced concerns over the rising temperatures which might negatively impact the voter turnout, with forecasts indicating that mercury could soar to 47℃. Authorities fear that the heatwave in parts of northern India, including Delhi and nearby Haryana state, could deter citizens from heading to the polls and waiting in queues, in an election previously marked by low participation.”There is concern, but we hope that people will brave the heat wave and come out to vote,” said Delhi Chief Electoral Officer P Krishnamurthy.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is anticipated to secure a third consecutive term, a milestone previously reached only by independence hero Jawaharlal Nehru, India‘s first prime minister.Voting started in the world’s largest democracy on April 19 and will end on June 1, with counting scheduled for June 4.Among the eligible voters in Delhi are Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party and Modi’s principal opponent, Gandhi’s Italian-born mother Sonia Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Vadra.Rahul Gandhi is running for elections in the southern state of Kerala and the family stronghold of Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh, both of which have already voted. India allows individuals to contest more than one seat but they can retain only one if they win.Opposition leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose release on bail after nearly two months in pre-trial detention on corruption charges has reinvigorated the opposition campaign, is also eligible to vote.Turnout was low in the initial stages of the election but it has improved as the Election Commission (EC), celebrities, and politicians continuously encouraged people to vote.Modi appealed to the public, especially women and youth, to “vote in large numbers” in a message on social media platform X on Saturday morning. “Democracy thrives when its citizens are engaged and active in the electoral process,” the prime minister stated.The EC has stationed thousands of paramedics with medicines and oral hydration salts at polling stations in Delhi. Voting centres have also been outfitted with mist machines, shaded waiting areas, and cold water dispensers for voters who may have to wait in lines for hours in the scorching heat.Among the areas casting ballots on Saturday is the business hub of Gurugram in Haryana, which hosts offices of half the Fortune 500 companies and experienced Hindu-Muslim clashes that resulted in seven deaths last year.Religion has been at the forefront in campaigning, with Modi accusing opposition leaders of being pro-Muslim — a strategy analysts say aims to galvanize his Hindu nationalist base — and the opposition accusing the prime minister of targeting the minority community.Due to elevated political rhetoric, the EC, earlier this week, urged the BJP and Congress to show restraint in their campaigns.

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