Fri, Apr 19, 2019 - Page 1 News List

India votes in second phase with Kashmir on lockdown


Women wait to cast their votes in Karbi Anglong District of Assam, India, yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Voting began yesterday in the second phase of India’s general elections amid massive security and a lockdown in parts of the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Srinagar was one of 95 constituencies across 13 Indian states where voting was taking place.

Kashmiri Muslim separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over the region have called for a boycott of the vote, calling it an illegitimate exercise under military occupation.

Most polling stations in the Srinagar and Budgam areas of Kashmir looked deserted in the morning, with more armed police, paramilitary soldiers and election staff than voters.

Authorities shut down mobile Internet services, and closed some roads with steel barricades and razor wire as armed soldiers and police in riot gear patrolled the streets.

Voting was expected to be brisk in the Hindu-dominated Udhampur constituency of the region.

The Indian election is taking place in seven phases over six weeks in the nation of 1.3 billion people. About 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in the lower house of parliament.

Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.

Also voting yesterday was Tamil Nadu state in the south, where tens of thousands lined up to cast their ballots for 37 seats.

Voting was postponed for the Vellore seat following the seizure of 110 million rupees (US$1.59 million) in unaccounted cash allegedly from the home of a local opposition politician, Kathir Anand.

His party accused federal tax authorities of raiding the homes and offices of party leaders running against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party. The governing party in the state, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is an ally of Modi’s party.

The Indian Election Commission said that authorities had recovered 2 billion rupees from leaders, workers and supporters of various political parties in the state in the past month. They suspect the money is for buying votes.

In vote-rich Uttar Pradesh state, election officials directed authorities to provide drinking water and sun shelters at polling stations to cope with scorching heat, state chief electoral officer Vekenteshwar Lu said.

The election, the world’s largest democratic exercise, is seen as a referendum on Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi has used Kashmir as one of the top issues of his campaign and played up the threat of Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on Feb. 14 that killed 40 soldiers.

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