Voters in Delhi and elsewhere in India‘s north have lined up to cast their ballots in the second-to-last round of a seven-phase general election, with the opposition seeking a united stand to deny Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second term.
More than 100 million people across seven states are eligible to vote in the sixth phase of the 39-day-long poll, which began on April 11 and will end on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
Sunday’s voting in 59 constituencies, including seven in the Indian capital, will complete polling for 483 of 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting for the remaining 60 seats will be held next Sunday.
Turnout in the first five phases averaged 67 percent, nearly the same as in 2014 elections that brought Modi to power.
India’s opposition parties have recently taken heart at what they see as signs Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) losing ground and have begun negotiations over a post-election alliance even before polling ends on May 19.
Some voters in Delhi said they were backing Modi because they were won over by his tough stand on security.
“I have voted for Modi’s sound foreign policy and national security,” a 36-year old first-time voter who declined to be identified told Reuters news agency.
Political analysts say that state-based and caste-driven parties could be decisive in determining the make-up of the next government, as a lack of new jobs and weak farm prices have hurt the BJP.
“Regional parties will play a bigger role compared to the previous five years or even 15 years,” said KC Suri, a political science professor at the University of Hyderabad. “They will regain their importance in national politics.”
Recent weeks have also been marked by personal attacks between leaders, including comments from Modi about the family of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.
At a recent rally Modi called Gandhi’s late father, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, “corrupt no. 1”. The BJP says Modi was reacting to Rahul Gandhi calling him a thief.
“The political vitriolic has become intense, and negatively intense,” said Ashok Acharya, a political science professor at the University of Delhi.
“It seems as if this particular election is all about a few political personalities. It is not about issues, any kind of an agenda.”