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India’s elections end with vote counting on Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know

NEW DELHI (AP) — The world’s most important elections may also be one of the most important.

India has nearly 970 million voters in a population of more than 1.4 billion, and its general election pits Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an avowed Hindu nationalist, against a broad alliance of opposition parties who are struggling to catch up.

Now 73, Modi first rose to power in 2014 on promises of economic development, casting himself as an outsider in the fight against corruption. Since then, he has fused religion and politics in a formula that has attracted broad support from the country’s majority Hindu population.

India under Modi is a rising global power, but his reign has also been marked by rising unemployment, attacks by Hindu nationalists on minorities, particularly Muslims, and a shrinking space for dissent and media freedom.


The last day of voting in the six-week election was Saturday. The count will begin Tuesday and will be updated throughout the day. The election results will likely be known the same day.

Voters choose 543 members for the lower house of Parliament for a five-year term.

Votes took place in more than a million polling stations. Each of the seven phases of voting lasted a single day, with multiple precincts in multiple states voting that day. Staggered voting allowed the government to transport election officials and voting machines and deploy tens of thousands of troops to prevent violence. Candidates crisscrossed the country, poll workers traveled to isolated villages on foot, and voters waited in line for hours in the sweltering heat.

India has a first-past-the-post, multi-party electoral system in which the candidate with the most votes wins. To obtain a majority, a party or coalition must exceed the threshold of 272 seats.

India uses electronic voting machines.


Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its main challenger, Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress, represent the two largest factions in Parliament. Several other important regional parties are part of an opposition bloc.

Previously divided opposition parties have united under a front called INDIA, or Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, to deny Modi a third consecutive election victory.

The alliance fielded a single lead candidate in most constituencies. But he is racked by ideological differences and personality clashes, and has yet to decide on his candidate for prime minister.

Most exit polls predict Modi is expected to extend his decade in power with a third consecutive term, especially after opening a Hindu temple in the northern city of Ayodhya in January, which filled the his party’s long-standing Hindu nationalist commitment. During the election, Modi escalated his polarizing rhetoric in incendiary speeches targeting the country’s Muslim minority.

Another victory would cement Modi as one of the country’s most popular and important leaders. This would follow a landslide victory in 2019, when the BJP clinched an absolute majority by winning 303 parliamentary seats. The Congress party got only 52 seats.


For decades, India has stubbornly clung to its democratic beliefs, largely through free elections, an independent judiciary, a thriving media, a strong opposition and a peaceful transition of power. Some of those credentials eroded under Modi’s decade-long rule, with elections seen as a test of the country’s democratic values.

Many watchdogs now classify India as a “hybrid regime” that is neither a full-fledged democracy nor a full-fledged autocracy.

The poll results will also test Modi’s limits. Critics accuse him of running on an essentially Hindu platform, thereby endangering the country’s secular roots.

Under Modi, the media, once considered vibrant and largely independent, has become more flexible and critical voices muzzled. The courts have largely bowed to Modi’s will and delivered favorable verdicts in crucial cases. The centralization of executive power has put Indian federalism under severe strain. And federal agencies have mired top opposition leaders in corruption cases, which they deny.

Another key issue is India’s large economy, which is among the fastest growing in the world. This helped India become a global power and a counterweight to China. But even as India’s growth accelerates, Modi’s government has struggled to create enough jobs for young Indians and has relied on social programs like free food and housing to woo voters .


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