Millions head to polls in penultimate round of India's grueling election

Millions of Indians are voting Saturday in the next-to-last round of a grueling national election with a combined opposition trying to rattle Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign for a third-consecutive term for himself and his Hindu nationalist party.

Many people lined polling stations before the start of voting at 7 a.m. to avoid the blazing sun later in the day at the peak of Indian summer.

Saturday’s voting in 58 constituencies, including seven in New Delhi, will complete polling for 89.5% of 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament.

The voting for the remaining 57 seats on June 1 will wrap up a six-week election. The votes will be counted on June 4.

President Droupadi Murmu and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar were among the early voters. Opposition Congress party leaders, Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, also voted in New Delhi.

Mehbooba Mufti, a former top elected official of Indian-controlled Kashmir, held a protest with her supporters Saturday claiming that scores of her party workers were detained by the police to prevent them from voting. Mufti, the chief of the People’s Democratic Party who is contesting the parliamentary election in the Anantnag-Rajouri district, said she complained to election officials.

This election is considered one of the most consequential in India’s history and will test Modi’s political dominance. If Modi wins, he’ll be only the second Indian leader to retain power for a third term, after Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister.

(AP)


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