India's richest city Mumbai goes to polls in fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh among candidates for 49 seats being contested

Voters at a polling station in the city of Hajipur, in Bihar, east India, on Monday, in the fifth phase of the country's general election. AFP
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Members of India's rich and famous were voting on Monday in the financial capital Mumbai as the country holds the fifth round of polling in its seven-stage parliamentary election.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition leader Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress are among 695 candidates standing for election in the 49 constituencies voting on Monday.

Polling has been held for 379 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, over the previous four phases, with an average voter turnout of 66 per cent.

The fifth phase includes constituencies in the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, the eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, and the federally-ruled northern territories Jammu and Kashmir and neighbouring Ladakh.

Ladakh was a part of Jammu and Kashmir until it was separated in 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government scrapped the special status of the region.

More than 89 million of India's 970 million-strong electorate were registered to vote on Monday.

Mr Singh is seeking election for a third time in a row from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a bellwether state represented by 80 MPs in Parliament.

Mr Gandhi, 53, is contesting from the Rae Bareli constituency, a family stronghold in Uttar Pradesh. He is also seeking election from Wayanad constituency in the southern state of Kerala, which voted earlier.

India allows citizens to stand for election from more than one constituency, but they can hold only one seat and must relinquish the others if they win in more than one constituency.

Mr Gandhi’s centre-left party leads the INDIA alliance seeking to stop Mr Modi from winning a third consecutive term. The coalition is promising higher basic wages, job guarantees, affirmative action for disadvantaged groups and to uphold religious and personal freedoms.

Mr Modi's party has been highlighting the fulfilment of its promises since coming to power in 2014, including the construction of a temple dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Ram in Ayodhya, one of the Uttar Pradesh constituencies voting on Monday.

The construction of the temple, which the Prime Minister inaugurated in January, has been a cornerstone of the BJP's platform since the party's inception in 1980. Supporters of the BJP and other Hindu right-wing groups demolished the 16th-century mosque that stood there in 1992.

In Mumbai, home to billionaires, film stars and slum dwellers and represented by six MPs in Parliament, the key issues were crumbling infrastructure, unemployment and an inadequate public transport system.

Bollywood stars Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone and her husband Ranveer Singh were among the famous personalities who turned out to vote.

Anil Ambani and N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons, were among the prominent businessmen to cast a ballot.

Centenarian Dr Gunvantrai Ganpatlal Parikh, who took part in the Quit India movement against British colonial rule and voted in independent India's first general election in 1951-52, was brought to a polling booth in a wheelchair.

The sixth phase of the election is scheduled on May 25, with the final round of polling on June 1.

Counting of votes will be held on June 4.

Updated: May 20, 2024, 11:17 AM