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Millions of Indians begin voting in the fourth round of the general election

MILLIONS of Indian voters went to the polls today to cast their ballots in the fourth round of voting in the country’s six-week general election.

Some 96 constituencies began casting their votes today as the election edged past its halfway mark.

Far-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third straight term with an eye on winning a supermajority in parliament.

Today’s polling in the fourth round of multiphase national elections across nine states and one union territory will be pivotal for Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, as it includes some of its strongholds in states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Most polls predict a win for the authoritarian Mr Modi and his far-right BJP, which is up against a broad opposition alliance led by the Indian National Congress and powerful regional parties.

BJP prospects may be hit by what appears to be a lower than usual voter turnout in the previous phases of the election.

Temperatures reaching around 40°C may also affect the numbers coming out to cast their votes. 

The staggered election will run until June 1 with nearly 970 million voters electing 543 members to the lower house of parliament for five years. 

The country’s five southern states — a region that has mostly rejected Mr Modi’s BJP since it first came to power in 2014 — also finished polling today.

The BJP is not contesting the polls in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley for the first time since 1996. This comes after Mr Modi’s government stripped the disputed region of its semi-autonomy and took direct control of it in 2019.

Instead, two regional parties — the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party — are the main contenders for the three seats in the valley and both are opposed to the BJP.

Waheed-Ur-Rehman Para, a leader of the People’s Democratic Party, said the election there was about “a referendum against the government’s decisions and policies that were implemented without any public consent.”

In campaign rallies, Mr Modi has called Muslims “infiltrators” and accused the main opposition Congress Party of scheming to redistribute wealth from the country’s Hindus to Muslims.

Nikhilesh Mishra, a bank employee in Samastipur, said: “Raking up issues of Hindus versus Muslims will take us nowhere.”

He said the BJP-led alliance in Bihar, which secured an overwhelming majority in the 2019 election, had failed to bring development to the state, which is among the poorest in India.

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