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India announces April 7 as start date for world's largest general election

India has announced its general election will be held on April 7. The world's largest vote is to take place over several days and will pit the ruling Congress party against the opposition Hindu nationalist party.

India's parliamentary poll will begin on April 7 and conclude on May 12, the country's Election Commission said on Wednesday. Some 810 million people are eligible to participate in the vote, 100 million more than the last edition five years ago, making it the largest election in the world.

Results are expected to be announced on May 16.

The vote will see charismatic

Hindu nationalist leader Narenda Modi

take on the unpopular Nehru Gandhi family's ruling Congress party. A recent Pew Research Center poll said 63 percent of citizens favored Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party to lead the next government.

"The [Election] Commission appeals to all stakeholders, and in particular the political parties and candidates, to uphold the fairness [and] democratic traditions by maintaining high standards of political discourse and fair play in the course of the campaign," Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath told a press conference.

Logistical, security considerations

Around 930,000 election stations will be set up during the nine-phase vote, covering the remote Himalayas in the north to India's tropical south.

India staggers its polls over several days for logistical and security reasons. Hundreds of thousands of security forces are to be deployed during the election. Sampath said the commission had to factor in weather conditions across the country when considering voting periods, as well as school holidays and harvesting times for farmers.

India's lower house of parliament, Lok Sabha, has 543 election seats. A party or coalition needs 272 parliamentarians to form a government.

dr/av (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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