India elections 2019: Phase two voting begins with eyes on the south
Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka vote on April 18 - the second round of voting in India's mammoth general election
Voting began in the second phase of India's general elections on Thursday in 97 constituencies across 13 Indian states. Follow the key developments as they happen here.
155 million Indians expected to vote today
In Uttar Pradesh, election officials directed authorities to provide drinking water and sun shelters at polling stations to cope with the scorching summer heat.
Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu ascetic from the BJP who governs northern Uttar Pradesh, was banned from campaigning for three days from Tuesday because of anti-Muslim comments, India's election commission said this week. During the campaign, he has described Muslims in India as a “green virus” that is set to “engulf the nation.”
Voters in Bengaluru, once a sleepy retirement town that has been transformed into India's technology hub, said they wanted lawmakers who would fix infrastructure problems such as traffic congestion and poor water management.
"We have been voting every time expecting a change but nothing has come so far. People are talking about national issues," said Manjunath Munirathnappa. "But only when they fix the local issues will there be progress in the nation."
More armed police than voters in Srinagar
The Kashmiri city Srinagar is one of the 97 constituencies heading to the polls on Thursday.
Kashmiri Muslim separatist leaders who challenge India's sovereignty over the disputed region have called for a boycott of the vote, calling it an illegitimate exercise under military occupation.
Most polling stations in the Srinagar and Budgam areas of Kashmir looked deserted in the morning, with more armed police, paramilitary soldiers and election staff than voters.
Authorities shut down mobile internet services and closed some roads with steel barricades and razor wire as armed soldiers and police in riot gear patrolled the streets.
Voting was expected to be brisk in the Hindu-dominated Udhampur constituency of the region.
Vote-buying claims in Tamil Nadu
Indian election authorities cancelled voting in a Tamil Nadu constituency on Wednesday after seizing more than 110 million rupees they believe was meant to influence the outcome.
It is the first time a ballot has been cancelled in a national election over attempted vote-buying, officials said.
The decision comes a day before the second phase of voting in the country's mammoth general election.
But voters in Vellore constituency in Tamil Nadu state will not be going to the polls as scheduled after the Election Commission of India ruled there were fears of a "systematic design to influence voters".
The ruling came after authorities seized more than 110m rupees from a candidate in the run-up to the vote.
The commission said late Tuesday that the environment in Vellore was no longer conducive to "free and ethical" elections.
No fresh date has been announced for polling in the constituency.
About 100 constituencies in 13 states go to the polls on Thursday in the second round of the seven-phase election that began on April 11.
Almost 900 million voters are eligible to cast their votes to elect 543 members to the lower house of the parliament, with results expected on May 23.
Attempts to secure votes in return for cash, liquor, electronic gadgets and even goats have been reported across Tamil Nadu in the run-up to voting.
More than 1.3 billion rupees ($18.7m) and one ton of gold worth 3bn rupees have been seized in the state since the poll dates were announced on March 10.
Elsewhere in the country, polls have been delayed by five days in parts of the northeastern state of Tripura over security fears. Polls will be held there on April 23 instead of Thursday.
And in the country's east, Bangladeshi star actor Ferdous Ahmed has been forced to leave India after he was discovered campaigning for a candidate from the opposition Congress party, officials at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kolkata said.
The National's India Election highlights this week:
Narendra Modi's 'chowkidar' campaign upsets some watchmen
When movie stars become politicians – Bollywood’s tryst with the Indian election
Essay: India's election presents voters with a choice about the soul of their nation
Updated: April 18, 2019 04:32 PM