India to hold marathon national election from April

India announced Saturday that national polls would begin in April, with Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly favoured to win a third term in the world's largest democracy.

Nearly a billion people are eligible to cast ballots in what will be the largest exercise of the democratic franchise in human history, conducted over six weeks.

Many consider Modi's re-election a foregone conclusion, owing to both the premier's robust popularity a decade after taking office and a glaringly uneven playing field.

His opponents have been hamstrung by infighting and what critics say are politically motivated legal investigations aimed at hobbling any challengers to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"We will take democracy to every corner of the country," chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar said at a press conference in New Delhi announcing the voting dates.

"It is our promise to deliver a national election in a manner that we remain a beacon for democracy around the world."

Voting will be staggered over seven stages, with the first date of polling on 19 April and the final phase on 1 June.

Results around the country will be counted all at once on June 4 and are usually announced on the same day.

Modi, 73, has already begun unofficial campaigning as he seeks a repeat of his landslide wins of 2014 and 2019, forged in part by his muscular appeals to India's majority faith.

In January, Modi presided over the inauguration of a grand temple to the deity Ram in the once-sleepy town of Ayodhya, built on the grounds of a centuries-old mosque razed by Hindu zealots.

Read more on RFI English

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