India Votes in Crucial Phase 6 of Elections as Modi Faces Fierce Opposition

Sat May 25 2024
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NEW DELHI: The sixth phase of India’s election has started, with top rivals of Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to vote in New Delhi following accusing him of unjustly targeting them with criminal investigations.

Narendra Modi, 73 and his ruling extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to win a third term next month following a poll hit by recurrent early summer heatwaves. His prospects have been further bolstered by many criminal probes into his political opponents, sparking concerns from United Nations rights chief Volker Turk and rights groups over the elections’ fairness.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, one of the top members of a disparate cross-party alliance hoping to unseat the BJP, was jailed for several weeks this year. The Supreme Court bailed him earlier this month and Kejriwal has returned to the campaign trail, urging people to take part in the elections.

Arvind Kejriwal was set to vote in Delhi, along with Rahul Gandhi, whose Congress party is spearheading the opposition alliance of more than two-dozen parties contesting jointly against Modi. Rahul Gandhi was convicted of criminal libel last year following a complaint by a member of BJP.  Gandhi’s two-year prison sentence saw him disqualified from parliament until the decision was suspended by the court.

In February Indian authorities also froze several Congress bank accounts as part of a running dispute over income tax returns filed around five years ago, a move Rahul Gandhi said had severely impacted the party. However, Rahul Gandhi told the reporters that they have no money to run election campaign. On the other hand, global rights campaigners have long sounded the alarm on India’s shrinking democratic space as US think-tank Freedom House said that the BJP had increasingly used government organizations to target political rivals.

As per western and local media report, turnout is down several percentage points from the last elections in 2019 due to heatwave. Over 968 million people are eligible to vote in the Indian polls, with the final round of polling on June 1st and results expected three days later.

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