NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Voting began in the third and largest phase of India’s staggered general election on Tuesday, including in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat and Kerala, where opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting.
In all, 188 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in 117 constituencies during the day – across 15 states and federally-controlled territories.
The general election, which has seven phases, began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
“This is, sort of, an inflection point,” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the New Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Policy Research, with more than half of India’s parliamentary constituencies having voted by the end of the third phase. The country’s parliament has 545 members.
So far, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has aggressively pushed Modi’s national security record as it seeks to offset the opposition’s charges of economic mishandling, inadequate jobs creation and widespread farm distress.
“I think job creation, sustainable development, and communal harmony should be the top priorities for the upcoming government,” said Ubaidullah Mohyideen, 26, who voted on Tuesday in Kerala’s Wayanad, one of the two seats that Gandhi is contesting.
At an election rally in Maharashtra on Monday, Modi mentioned the attacks on Sri Lankan hotels and churches on Easter Sunday that killed 290 people before saying India’s security had been enhanced after his government came to power in 2014.