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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Modi casts vote as election to determine India’s next PM is underway

The third of seven phases of polling will see 170 million people voting on Tuesday across 11 states

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cast his vote at a school in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, as polling for the third phase of the general election started on Tuesday. Before and after casting his ballot, he encouraged people to vote. “Urging everyone to do so as well and strengthen our democracy,” Modi said on X (formerly Twitter).

Polling in the third phase, out of a total of seven, is being held across 93 parliamentary constituencies in 11 states and union territories, including Gujarat, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and others. Over 170 million people are eligible to vote on Tuesday.

Read more: Indian opposition leader to challenge Modi’s party in family stronghold

As many as 1,331 candidates are in the fray during this phase, according to the Election Commission of India. In the 2019 election, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies won 75 of the 93 seats at stake on Tuesday, according to Mint. The alliance of opposition parties, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), won just eight seats.

Meanwhile, at least 19 schools in and around Ahmedabad, the capital of the western Indian state of Gujarat, received bomb threats from a Russian domain on Monday, hours ahead of polling and days after similar emails were received by dozens of schools in the nation’s capital, triggering investigations.

Local officials called the threats a hoax, as they did not find any suspicious materials during search operations. Polling is being held in at least 11 of the schools, according to a report in the Indian Express. A complaint has been registered in connection to the bomb threat at a cyber-crime police station in Ahmedabad, the newspaper reported. Police in Ahmedabad are also believed to be in touch with their counterparts in Delhi.

Read more: Indian court dismisses plea to disqualify Modi from election

India’s Home Ministry later confirmed that the threats were hoaxes. In the wake of the bomb threats, security forces in Delhi are conducting a series of mock drills at different key locations in the city, including metro stations, airports, schools, and government buildings, Wion reported. In Delhi, voting will be held on May 26 during the sixth phase.

The threats were reportedly sent from the email address sawariim@mail.ru, which appears to be registered with the Russian email service provider Mail.ru. The Times of India reported that Delhi Police will likely send a judicial letter to Russia seeking details of the email ID from which the messages were sent.

The ongoing election in India to elect 543 members of the Lower House (Lok Sabha) to form the next government has been dubbed the world’s “largest democratic exercise,” as over 960 million people are eligible to vote. The first two phases were held on April 19 and 26. The remaining phases will be held on May 13, 20, and 25, and June 1. The counting of the votes will take place on one day – June 4.