The KPU starts counting, Modi is confident of victory

Nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should win a third term as the country's leader on Tuesday at the end of an election marathon marked by a weakening opposition and growing concerns over the rights of minority groups.

Electronic counting began Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. (02:30 GMT) at each state's election center and results are expected in the following hours.

Some 642 million voters cast their ballots during the six-week election marathon that ended on Saturday.

Modi, 73, still hugely popular after two terms in office, declared categorically this weekend that “the Indian people voted in large numbers” to re-elect him, ten years after he was appointed leader of the world's most populous country with 1 .4 billion population.

His sentiments were shared by observers who believed he was confident of victory at the end of a campaign marked by his increasingly strong appeal to Hindu nationalist sentiment.

It remains to be seen whether his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will obtain the qualified two-thirds majority in the lower house, as per its goal.

The Prime Minister's opponents, sometimes paralyzed by internal struggles, had difficulty influencing this powerful organization and accused the government of exploiting justice for political purposes by increasing the number of legal proceedings against them.

The American foundation Freedom House also estimates that the BJP is “increasingly using government institutions to target political opponents.”

On Sunday, one of the opposition's most prominent figures, Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi chief minister who called for “fighting dictatorship”, was back in prison. Accused of taking bribes to grant alcohol licenses to private companies, he was released on bail last month, when it was time for him to campaign.

– “World record” –

The Hindu nationalist orientation of Modi's government is causing growing anxiety among the estimated 200 million Muslims in the world's largest constitutionally secular democracy.

His comments about the Muslim community, which he called “infiltrators”, also drew criticism from opposition leaders.

The vote, held in seven phases, had enormous logistical complexity, with voters casting their ballots in major cities such as New Delhi and Bombay, but also in remote and sparsely populated areas.

India uses electronic machines to allow ballots to be counted quickly.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Monday praised the “tremendous strength of Indian democracy” and assured that “a robust vote counting process has been put in place”.

“We have broken the world record with 642 million voters in India, this is a historic moment for all of us,” Kumar said, noting that 312 million were women voters, or almost half.

India's major television channels deployed journalists outside vote-counting centers to broadcast the results of the 543 seats in the lower house.

In recent years, the main trend has been to emerge in the middle of the day, with the losing side admitting defeat, although full and final results are not announced until late in the evening from Tuesday to Wednesday.

At the BJP headquarters, Modi supporters prepared to celebrate their victory.

In the last election in 2019, the party won 303 seats, 31 more than its absolute majority.


Serena Hoyles

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