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India election: Second phase of voting begins

April 26, 2024

The second phase of the Indian general election has begun, with some 160 million people eligible to vote in this part of the six-week-long poll. The weather might have an impact on this phase of the vote.

People queue up to vote during the second round of voting in the six-week long national election outside a polling booth in Kochi, southern Kerala state
The southern states of Kerala and Karnataka are likely to be in focus in the second phaseImage: R S Iyer/AP/picture alliance

The second phase of voting for India's 2024 general elections began on Friday, amid intense campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition INDIA alliance to appeal to voters.

Eligible voters in some 88 constituencies across 13 states and Union territories — Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur and Tripura —  lined up outside polling stations in parts of the country hit by a scorching heatwave.

Indian news outlet NDTV reported a 25% voter turnout across the states and union territories as of 11 a.m. local time. 

India's 2024 general election, the largest democratic exercise in the world, began on April 19 and ends on June 1. Results are expected by June 4. Nearly a billion people are eligible to vote. 

In pictures: Second phase of voting underway

eople wait in a queue to cast their votes during second phase of national election, near Palakkad, southern state of Kerala, India, Friday, April 26, 2024.
People were voting for all 20 seats for the southern state of Kerala in the lower house of parliament todayImage: Manish Swarup/AP Photo/picture alliance
People waiting in the line in the northern union territory of Jammu and Kashmir
People waiting in the queue in the northern union territory of Jammu and KashmirImage: Channi Anand/AP Photo/picture alliance
A voter shows her identity papers and signs her name in the polling register before casting her vote during the second round of voting in the six-week-long national election near Palakkad, in Indian southern state of Kerala, Friday, April 26, 2024.
Nearly a billion people are eligible to vote and to rule a party or a coalition needs a simply majority of 272 seats in the lower house of parliamentImage: Manish Swarup/AP Photo/picture alliance

Gandhi hoping to hold onto his Wayanad seat

Modi hopes to win a third successive term as voters elect 543 members of the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of parliament. 

His BJP party is up against the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (India), which includes opposition leader Rahul Gandhi's Congress Party.

The focus on Friday will be on the southern states of Karnataka and Kerala.

Karnataka is one of the BJP's only strongholds in southern India, but the state went to the opposition in the state assembly elections.

Gandhi — the great-grandson of India's first prime minister and one of PM Modi's strongest critics — is seeking re-election from Wayanad in Kerala. It has been a Congress bastion for the last two decades. 

Indian election: Unlocking women's potential in politics

India top court dismisses changes to vote-counting process

India's Supreme Court declined to order any change to the vote-counting process in the ongoing national election.

The opposition sought a complete cross-verification of votes cast using electronic voting machines with a voter-verifiable-paper-audit-trail (VVPAT) unit that the machine comes with. India has been using electronic voting machines to record votes since 2000.

The VVPAT unit produces a paper slip that is visible to the voter for about seven seconds before it gets stored in a sealed drop box.

The opposition asked for VVPAT slips to be cross-checked with electronic voting machine votes because they say it would make the vote more transparent. India's top court also rejected a return to the ballot paper system for elections.

Summer heat to affect voter turnout

Political parties have been worried about voter turnout due to the intense summer heat and wedding season in some parts of the country.

A wave of sweltering weather from South and Southeast Asia has prompted thousands of schools in Bangladesh and the Philippines to suspend in-person classes.

Indian Roads Minister Nitin Gadkari fainted at a rally for Modi in the western state of Maharashtra on April 24.

Earlier this week, India's Election Commission said it had formed a task force to review the impact of heatwaves and humidity on voter turnout.

Voter turnout in the first phase on April 19 was 65% compared to 70% in 2019.

The Election Commission, however, said it had "no major concern" about the impact of hot temperatures on Friday's vote. 

Both Modi and Gandhi urged Indians to go to the polls. 

rm, mk/lo (AFP, Reuters)