Mon, May 13, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Indians vote in penultimate phase of general elections

Reuters, NEW DELHI

Voters in north India early yesterday lined up to cast their ballots in the second-to-last round of a seven-phase general election, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a diverse group of opposition parties seeking to deny him a second term.

More than 100 million people across seven states are eligible to vote in the sixth phase of the 39-day-long poll, which Modi began on April 11 as front-runner after an escalation of tension with neighboring Pakistan.

However, opposition parties have taken heart at what they see as signs Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might be losing ground and have begun negotiations over a post-election alliance even before polling ends on Sunday. Votes are to be counted on Thursday next week.

Main opposition National Congress party President Rahul Gandhi said that the main issues in the election were unemployment, distress in the countryside, the demonetization of banknotes and a new sales tax.

“It was a good fight,” Gandhi said after he cast his vote. “Narendra Modi used hatred, we used love. And I think love is going to win.”

A lack of new jobs — despite annual economic growth of about 7 percent — and the plight of farmers struggling with falling crop prices have been major worries for voters.

A new good and services tax (GST) as well as Modi’s shock ban on all high-value banknotes in 2016 hurt small and medium businesses.

Some voters in the capital, New Delhi, said they were backing Modi because they were won over by his tough stand on security.

Indian warplanes in February attacked what the government said was a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, soon after a suicide car bomb attack in the disputed Kashmir region killed 40 police officers.

The aggressive response stirred nationalist passions that pollsters said could favor Modi in the election.

“I have voted for Modi’s sound foreign policy and national security,” said a 36-year old first-time voter who declined to be identified.

“The demonetization has affected jobs growth, but over time, the positive effects of GST and demonetization would take care of jobs,” he said.

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