Indian general election to begin voting on April 11
Voting in the largest democracy will take place in seven phases
India's Election Commission on Sunday announced the dates of the upcoming national election, set to be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the the results would be announced on May 23.
Some 900 million people will be eligible to vote, including 15 million new voters aged 18 to 19, among others, in a staggered process that allows the government to deploy tens of thousands of troops to prevent outbreaks of violence and the capture of voting stations by party activists.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who will be running for a second term – tweeted "The festival of democracy, Elections are here. I urge my fellow Indians to enrich the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with their active participation. I hope this election witnesses a historic turnout. I particularly call upon first time voters to vote in record numbers."
"With the blessings and participation of 1.3 billion Indians, what was earlier deemed impossible has now become possible," added the prime minister.
An opinion poll released following the announcement of the election schedule showed that India's ruling party alliance will sweep a majority of parliamentary seats up for grabs.
The coalition led by Prime Minister Modi's National Democratic Alliance could win 264 seats in the election compared to 141 for the Congress party-led opposition alliance, according to the CVoter opinion poll televised on a local channel on Sunday. A total of 543 seats are up for grabs in the election.
Mr Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have been projecting the party and its leaders as decisive and tough on national security. Opposition parties, however, have accused Mr Modi and his party of using national security matters to try to influence voters.
Mr Arora said provincial elections in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir will not be held alongside the polls for parliamentary elections, due to a recent uptick in violence.
"Only Lok Sabha elections would be held in Jammu and Kashmir," said Mr Arora, referring to the country's lower house of India's bicameral Parliament. "Elections for six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in five phases. A three-member panel of observers will be appointed to assess the security situation for holding assembly elections later."
A set of guidelines has been issued to parties, candidates and polling agents to ensure a free and fair electoral process. On Saturday, the Election Commission ordered political parties to tell their candidates and leaders not to display photographs of defense personnel in advertisements as part of their election campaigns.
The commission said armed forces are "apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a modern democracy."
India's last national election, in 2014, was conducted in nine phases. The BJP achieved an absolute majority, with 282 parliamentary seats out of 543. The then-ruling Congress party managed only 44 seats following bribery charges against several party leaders and poor governance.
Updated: March 10, 2019 08:00 PM