Indians begin casting ballots in general elections

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Indians have begun casting ballots in the country’s general elections, which take place in nine stages over five weeks.

Voting kicked off on Monday in six constituencies in the two northeastern states of Assam and Tripura.

Some 814 million eligible voters will elect members of the 543-seat Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) in the world’s biggest elections.

Any party or coalition needs a minimum of 272 seats in the parliament to be able to form a government.

The marathon elections pit the Congress Party against the main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The final results of the elections are due on May 16. Some opinion polls show that the Hindu nationalist BJP is in the lead.

The landmark polls put Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the BJP, against Rahul Gandhi, who leads the Indian National Congress Party.

The Congress Party-led coalition government has witnessed a decline in popularity as a result of corruption scandals and harsh economic decisions.

The Congress Party, however, has held massive rallies in recent months across India to drum up support for the government. Its leaders are trying to convince the public about the importance of their controversial economic reforms.

There are other smaller regional parties contesting in the elections, including two-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The party’s leader, Arvind Kejriwal, has been campaigning on an anti-corruption platform.

India’s next government will face the tough job of reviving an economy plagued by high inflation and a wide fiscal deficit.

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