India votes into 1st phase of elections, calls for mass participation intensified

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption India is holding elections in 2019

The election process starts today and will continue in phases until a new government is elected. The counting of votes will begin on May 23 and results declared accordingly.

Political analysts said the ongoing election is the largest edition with 900 million eligible voters across India.

Some observers have billed this as the most important election in decades and the tone of the campaign has been acrimonious.

Mr Kejriwal was responding to a tweet by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which quoted their party president saying they "will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs".

The foreign minister further said it was for the people of India to decide who will win the general elections there.

Modi's main challenger is India's main opposition party, the Indian National Congress Party, and its leader Rahul Gandhi (no relation to India's freedom leader Mahatma Gandhi). His sister, Priyanka Gandhi, formally joined politics in January.

Various opinion polls have indicated an alliance led by Mr Modi's BJP will win up to 273 of the 543 Parliament seats at stake, just one more than the required majority.

Forced to move out of the village after the murder, Akhlaq's brother Jan Mohammad voted in Dadri town on Thursday, while his sons are now registered as voters in New Delhi. Two-thirds of Indians believe that public officials are corrupt, and a similar share say graft has gotten worse since the BJP came to power.

Reports said the voters, including women, elderly and first timers, are waiting in long queues outside polling stations for their turn to cast franchise.

Security forces were on high alert due to the perennial danger of violence at election time, with five people including a local lawmaker killed in an ambush by suspected Maoist rebels this week.

Almost 900 million Indians are expected to cast their ballots in over 1 million polling stations.

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Mostly, the Hindu fundamentalists and ultra-nationalist forces back Modi and that make obviously a large chunk of voters.

Indians will vote on seven different days between 11 April and 19 May.

India's historic first election in 1951-52 took three months to complete. The four-day elections in 1980 were the country's shortest ever.

Voting is also being held in parts of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Polling in some states, such as Andhra Pradesh and Nagaland, will conclude in one day.

Polling stations in the northeast were among the first to open at 7am (8.30am Thailand) with others elsewhere set to follow at 8am. Modi has pushed through landmark tax and bankruptcy reforms, but poor execution of policies like demonetization have damaged India's economy. While the government has suppressed official-and negative-unemployment data, private research from Azim Premji University showed that 7 percent-plus GDP growth has led to less than 1 percent improvement in employment.

Mr Modi's government has been accused of hiding uncomfortable jobs data.

Congress, which promised jobs and "Love over Hate" in its own rallying cry on Twitter, wrested three key states from the BJP in state polls in December by promising to waive the outstanding loans of distressed farmers.

Kashmir hit the headlines ahead of the elections after 40 paramilitary personnel were killed in a suicide attack in February. On February 26, India launched an air strike at a JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan in retaliation to the Pulwama attack.

Since then, the BJP has made national security a key plank in its campaign.

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