India started the world’s largest election Monday, sealing international borders along its remote northeast while voters made their way past lush rice paddies and over rickety bamboo bridges and pot-holed dirt roads to reach the polls. The country’s 814 million electorate will vote in stages over the next five weeks — a staggered approach made necessary by India’s vast size — to choose representatives to its 543-seat lower house of parliament. The main Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party led by prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi is seen as the biggest threat to the now-governing Congress Party and its allies. Results from all 935,000 polling stations are expected on May 16.
Polls suggest Congress could be facing a drubbing thanks to corruption scandals and recent years of economic slowdown. The BJP, which has pledged economic renewal, is expected to do well but to fall short of a 272-seat majority. Its chief, Modi, has been credited for ushering in strong industrial growth in western state of Gujarat, where he has been chief minister for 11 years.
However, critics question whether the Hindu nationalist chief can be a truly secular leader over India’s many cultures. And some economists have noted that the state’s strong economy has not helped to lift common people out of poverty.
Full Article: India begins world’s largest election – The Washington Post.