In his address, PM Modi also stressed that the 21 day lockdown was “very necessary to break the chain of coronavirus”. He emphasized the seriousness of the situation and said that even developed countries had faced problems in combating it. He also said that “social distancing was the only way to stop” the virus spreading.
The prime minister announced that nearly $2 billion would be made available to boost India’s health infrastructure.
He called on people not to “spread rumors” and to follow instructions.
The prime minister’s announcement came after several Indian states introduced measures of their own, such as travel restrictions and the closure of non-essential services.
India has already issued a ban on international arrivals and grounded domestic flights. The country’s rail network has also suspended most passenger services.
India has successfully launched a record number of 104 satellites on a single mission, overtaking the previous record of 37 satellites launched by Russia in 2014.
All but three of the satellites are from foreign countries, most of them from the United States.
The launch took place from the Sriharikota space center in east India.
According to observers, it is a sign that India is emerging as a major player in the multi-billion dollar space market.
Image source India Today
Project director B Jayakumar was quoted as saying by Reuters: “This is a great moment for each and every one of us. Today we have created history.”
Indian PM Narendra Modi was among the first to congratulate the scientists tweeting: “This remarkable feat by @isro is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation. India salutes our scientists.”
The phrase “world record” has also been trending on Twitter India on February 15.
Of the 104 small satellites, 96 belong to the US while Israel, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the other foreign clients.
A majority of the satellites have earth-imaging capability and belong to American company Planet.
An Indian cartographic satellite, believed to be capable of taking high resolution images is also on board. It is expected to be used to monitor regional arch rivals Pakistan and China.
India has increased the 2017 budget for its space program and also announced plans to send a mission to Venus.
Over the past two decades, India has become a key player in the lucrative commercial space market offering a low-cost alternative.
Thousands of Indians are flocking to pay their respects to Jayaram Jayalalitha, one of the country’s most influential and colorful politicians.
J Jayalalitha, the chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu suffered a heart attack on December 4 and died at 23:30 local time on December 5 at the age of 68, Chennai’s Apollo Hospital says.
The politician’s body, draped in the Indian flag, is on display at a large public hall.
India’s PM Narendra Modi was among those who visited to pay tribute.
Extra police have been deployed in the state amid fears of unrest.
The extreme devotion J Jayalalitha inspires among her supporters, many of whom refer to her as “Amma” (mother) have led to concerns that they could resort to self-harm or violence.
Earlier reports of J Jayalalitha’s death, which were swiftly withdrawn, prompted scuffles between police and her supporters outside the private hospital.
However, lines have been orderly so far, despite the visible emotion among the crowds who are queuing up to catch a final glimpse of Jayalalitha. Many are openly weeping while some are beating their heads and chests.
A seven-day period of mourning has been declared in Tamil Nadu. The central government in Delhi has announced that December 6 will be a national holiday as a mark of respect and that J Jayalalitha will be given a funeral with full state honors.
She had been receiving treatment for months.
J Jayalalitha is revered by many but was seen by her critics as having created a cult of personality over the years.
Tributes began to pour in for J Jayalalitha as soon as her death was confirmed by Apollo, which had been treating her since September 22.
Her AIADMK party – which had earlier lowered the flag to half-mast before hoisting it up once more – also confirmed she had died, tweeting “our beloved leader, the Iron lady of India… Amma, is no more”.
“RIP Jayalalitha” has been trending on Twitter, while Facebook is also filled with elegies for a woman who is widely respected for managing to hold her own in the male-dominated world of Tamil Nadu politics.
A senior AIADMK politician, O Panneerselvam, was sworn in as chief of Tamil Nadu within hours of J Jayalalitha’s death, the party’s Twitter account confirmed.
Thousands of Indians have demonstrated in a number of cities against the government’s ban on two major currency notes.
Earlier this month, the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes were banned overnight, causing chaos as people lined up at banks to exchange their old currency.
India’s PM Narendra Modi has defended the decision saying it was an anti-corruption measure.
However, opposition parties say the move was mishandled.
Last week, they stalled parliament and demanded Narendra Modi should apologize for the decision.
Image source Reuters
Correspondents say it is unclear how much public momentum a day of protests will generate as many Indians have supported the move, despite the inconvenience it has caused them.
Most opposition parties said they would participate in the so-called “day of rage”.
A number of important regional leaders – like the chief ministers of Bihar and Orissa – refused to back the protests, saying Narendra Modi’s attempts to curb corruption should be welcomed.
Protest rallies have been held in the cities of Lucknow, Kolkata and Bangalore.
The southern state of Kerala and the eastern state of Tripura, both ruled by the Communists, saw a near total shutdown.
“We are protesting against the undeclared financial emergency imposed by the government and the hardships people across the country are facing because of this illegal decision,” Manish Tiwari of the Congress party told the AFP news agency.
“The decision to demonetize high-value currency was done without any authority and legislation and is clearly illegal.”
About 90% of India’s transactions are in cash and many people do not have a bank account. The two banned notes accounted for about 86% of the cash in circulation.
In his first national address since the government banned the notes, Narendra Modi called on November 27 for people to embrace digital payments and use less cash.
Last week, former PM Manmohan Singh said the government’s move to ban the much-used banknotes was “monumental mismanagement”, and that India’s gross domestic product would fall “by about 2%” because of the move.
Narendra Modi announced that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes were no longer legal tender as part of a crackdown on corruption on November 8.
There have been chaotic scenes in India ever since. People have spent hours queuing outside banks and cash machines which often run out of money.
In some instances the police have had to be called in to manage queues of anxious customers trying to access legal tender.
According to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, “honest people” have no need to worry about a decision to withdraw 1,000 and 500 rupee notes from circulation.
Arun Jaitley said the move would flush out tax evaders, adding that all old notes deposited in banks would be subjected to tax laws.
The surprise move, announced on November 8, is part of a crackdown on corruption and illegal cash holdings.
The announcement was met with shock in India.
Media described the move variously as a “surgical strike” on tax evaders in India’s overwhelmingly cash-based economy and a “big bang note”. The banknotes declared illegal tender represent 85% of cash in circulation in India.
Image source Reuters
Arun Jaitley said that the move would also help India move towards a cashless economy, saying that farmers could “now keep their money in banks”.
He added that new 2,000 (about $30) and 500 rupee denomination notes to replace those removed from circulation would be injected into the economy over the next “three to four weeks”.
On November 8, there were long queues at ATMs as people tried to withdraw 100 rupee notes, which are still legal.
Banks and ATM machines were shut on November 9.
The most affected are likely to be small traders, vendors and laborers but newspapers were quick to point out that India’s wedding season, due to start in a few days, will also be hit hard.
“Black money and corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty,” PM Narendra Modi said in his address to the nation on November 8.
The prime minister said the move would “cause some hardship” but asked people to “ignore” it, calling the step a “celebration of honesty”.
People will be able to exchange their old notes for new ones at banks over the next 50 days but they stopped being legal tender at midnight on November 8. There are also going to be limits on cash withdrawals from ATMs starting on November 10.
The move is designed to lock out money that is unaccounted for – known as “black money” – which may have been acquired corruptly, or be being withheld from the tax authorities.
Finance Secretary Shaktikant Das warned people with large amounts of hidden cash that banks would closely monitor the exchange of old notes for new ones.
The 500 and 1,000 rupee notes are the highest denomination notes in India and are extremely common in India. Airports, railway stations and hospitals will only accept them until November 11. People will be able to exchange their money at banks between November 10 and December 30.
Government guidelines say it is possible to exchange 4,000 rupees – but it is not clear if this is per day or in total. If there is a legitimate explanation for the cash, the authorities say, it will be possible to exchange it.
Indian PM Narendra Modi has wished Afghan President Ashraf Ghani a happy birthday on a wrong date.
Narendra Modi tweeted his best wishes to Ashraf Ghani, writing: “Praying for your long life & exceptional health and a joyful journey ahead.”
Ashraf Ghani gently responded on Twitter only to point out his birthday is, in fact, on May 19: “Greetings from Munich Mr. PM. Although my Birthday is on 19th May, but I’d still like to thank you for your gracious words.”
Ashraf Ghani’s profile on Google lists his birthday as being on February 12, which may explain the mistake.
It is not known if Narendra Modi himself wrote the erroneous tweet. His posts are reportedly written by his social media manager, Hiren Joshi.
Also, it is unlikely Ashraf Ghani, who is at Munich Security Conference, wrote the polite reply, as any posts written by the president himself are signed AG.
Given there at least 22.2 million Twitter users in India and that Ashraf Ghani has more than 176,000 followers, the mistake was spotted by plenty of people.
One Twitter user in India, replied to Ashraf Ghani: “We don’t care when you b’day is , if our honorable PM has wished you today, we will celebrate it today.”
Another, Richard Rego, said it was “the biggest international joke from someone occupying the biggest chair in the biggest democracy”.
Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the leaders of India’s opposition Congress party, have appeared in court in connection with corruption allegations.
The mother and son were both granted bail minutes after arriving, and the case was adjourned until February 20, the AFP reported.
Sonia and Rahul Gandhi deny misusing party funds to buy a company that published the now-closed National Herald newspaper.
The case has been brought by a member of the ruling BJP.
Subramanian Swamy says the Gandhis took over the company to try to acquire more than $300 million in property assets.
The Delhi high court on December 7 rejected the Gandhis’ plea to be exempted from making personal appearance in the district court at Patiala House on December 19.
Sonia Gandhi, the party president, welcomed being granted bail and said she had no doubt that truth would prevail.
Rahul Gandhi, who is the party vice-president, accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and PM Narendra Modi of making false allegations against him and his mother and said they would not be defeated.
The National Herald ceased publication in 2008. The party had previously said it wanted to revive the paper, established in 1938 by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
However, Subramanian Swamy has alleged that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi used party funds illegally to acquire the newspaper’s properties.
The case has also disrupted the current session of parliament, with lawmakers accusing the ruling BJP of a “political vendetta”.
The BJP has rejected the allegations.
“How is parliament involved if some people have been summoned by a court? You [Gandhis] want to silence the judiciary. You want to intimidate the judiciary. You are telling the judiciary, how dare you summon us,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said.
Congress party lost the general election in 2014, winning only 44 of the 543 seats after governing India for 10 years. The BJP won a landslide victory.
Indian PM Narendra Modi has admitted defeat for his governing BJP in a key regional election in Bihar state.
The BJP was running against an alliance of parties linked to main opposition Congress party in the state assembly.
Narendra Modi won a convincing victory in last year’s national elections, but this poll was seen as a referendum on his economic program.
However, a spokesman for the Hindu-led nationalist party rejected suggestions the result for Bihar state assembly was a personal blow for Narendra Modi, saying the BJP “managed a creditable performance”.
Narendra Modi had been hoping a victory in Bihar would boost his party’s strength in India’s upper house of parliament, which made up of representatives of state legislatures and where he lacks a majority.
With votes still being counted, the anti-Modi alliance was ahead in 125 seats, compared with the BJP’s 79 seats, out of 238 where the trends were clear.
Bihar, in the north-west of India, is one of the country’s largest states, with a population of 100 million, and is also one of the poorest.
PM Narendra Modi has led thousands in a mass yoga program in Delhi on the first ever International Yoga Day held in India on June 21.
Narendra Modi did stretches, bends and breathing exercises with 35,000 school children, bureaucrats and soldiers.
Security was tight in the Indian capital with thousands of police and paramilitary deployed for Sunday morning’s event.
Millions of others are expected to do yoga at similar events planned in hundreds of Indian cities and towns.
Narendra Modi, a yoga enthusiast who says he practices the ancient Indian art daily, lobbied the United Nations to declare June 21 International Yoga Day.
Thousands of colorful mats were laid out on Rajpath – King’s Avenue – where the main event was held.
Officials had earlier said PM Narendra Modi will attend the event and address the gathering, but not do yoga.
However, the prime minister surprised participants by joining in with the exercises.
Authorities said 35,000 people attended the 35-minute yoga session on Rajpath, aimed at setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest yoga class at a single venue.
Guinness officials said they would announce the results in a few hours.
Yoga was also being performed on the Siachen glacier and the high seas, the defense ministry said.
The day is also being celebrated around the world and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj says “tens of millions” will do yoga on Sunday, June 21.
Sushma Swaraj herself will be in New York where she will attend the celebrations with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In Times Square, 30,000 people are expected to do yoga.
However, the day, being billed as one to promote “harmony and peace”, has hit a controversial note with some Muslim organizations saying yoga is essentially a Hindu religious practice and is against Islam.
Many others say Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has an agenda in promoting the ancient Indian discipline.
However, the authorities deny the charge – they say participation in the yoga day is not mandatory and reports that Muslims are opposed to yoga are exaggerated.
India’s new PM Narendra Modi has overtaken the White House on Twitter, a study of political use of the social network has found.
Narendra Modi’s account @NarendraModi has 4.99 million followers, ahead of the @WhiteHouse account which has 4.98 million followers.
His huge victory in the recent general election was partly credited to a well-organized social media campaign.
Narendra Modi has overtaken the White House on Twitter
Narendra Modi, leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is also the most followed Indian leader on Twitter.
“Mr. Modi’s seen a stratospheric rise,” said Matthias Luefkens, who heads the annual Twiplomacy, a study conducted by global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller.
Although Narendra Modi speaks mostly in Hindi, his tweets are always in English, preferred for business in a nation with 22 official languages.
Narendra Modi, who was elected in May, scored 24,000 re-tweets for his own “India has won!” victory message.
“I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world,” Narendra Modi has said in a message on his new website.
The five most followed world leaders were President Barack Obama (@BarackObama) with 43 million followers of his campaign account, Pope Francis (@Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (@SBYudhoyono) with 5 million followers, with @WhiteHouse and @NarendraModi in fourth and fifth places.
Indian PM-elect Narendra Modi has received an enthusiastic welcome at his BJP party’s headquarters in Delhi after securing the most decisive election victory in three decades.
Narendra Modi was cheered by supporters after a victory parade from the airport.
Manmohan Singh, whose Congress party was crushed in the poll, has tendered his resignation as prime minister.
Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist and chief minister of Gujarat, campaigned on promises to revive the economy.
Results show the BJP gained a majority in parliament and will be able to govern without coalition partners.
However, many Indians still have profound concerns over Narendra Modi because of claims he did little to stop communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which at least 1,000 people died, most of them Muslims.
narendra Modi has always denied the allegations and was never charged.
After arriving in Delhi from his home state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi was greeted by flag-waving supporters. He stepped out of his car, flashing a victory sign.
Narendra Modi was cheered by supporters after a victory parade from Delhi airport
A brass band, drummers and bagpipers met him at the BJP headquarters, while bunting and balloons decorated the street.
Narendra Modi will go to Varanasi for a ceremony by the river Ganges later on Saturday.
With votes still being counted, the BJP has won more than the 272 seats needed for a parliamentary majority.
With its allies, the party could get more than 330 seats out of 543.
Speaking at the BJP headquarters, Narendra Modi said: “I want to bow, I want to give my thanks… to the people of India.”
He said Indian media had created “consciousness among voters” and a “great festival of Indian democracy”.
On Friday, Narendra Modi wrote in a widely-shared tweet: “India has won, good days are about to come.”
He also told supporters he would rule for all Indians.
“The age of divisive politics has ended – from today onwards the politics of uniting people will begin.”
World leaders, including President Barack Obama and UK PM David Cameron, have congratulated Narendra Modi on his victory.
India’s new leader has received invitations to Washington and London. Previously, the US denied him visas and the UK cut off all ties with him following the 2002 riots.
Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif commended the BJP’s “impressive victory” in the election.
The Congress party, which has dominated Indian politics since independence, is only expected to win 44 seats.
Congress has been mired in serious corruption scandals and its leadership has been considered ineffective in recent years, analysts say.
Accepting defeat, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said: “We humbly respect the verdict of the people.”
Manmohan Singh met the president to hand in his resignation.
In a televised farewell address earlier on Saturday, Manmohan Singh said the government had achieved a lot in the last 10 years.
“I wish the incoming government every success,” Manmohan Singh said.
India’s opposition candidate Narendra Modi will be the next prime minister, with counting trends showing the pro-business Hindu nationalist and his party headed for the most resounding election victory the country has seen in thirty years.
The opposition Hindu nationalist BJP party has promised “good times ahead” as early results suggest it is on course for a landslide victory.
Narendra Modi’s landslide win was welcomed with a thundering rally on India’s stock markets and jubilant celebrations at offices across the country of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), where supporters danced, exploded fireworks and handed out sweets.
Although final results are not expected until later, the scale of the predicted victory is such that the ruling Congress party has admitted defeat.
India’s opposition candidate Narendra Modi will be the next prime minister
BJP leader Narendra Modi tweeted: “India has won. Good times ahead.”
This is the most resounding victory for a political party in India for 30 years, say correspondents.
Narendra Modi, chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, is seen as a no-nonsense, can-do leader who stands for development and muscular nationalism.
He campaigned on promises of a revival in economic growth.
But many Indians still have profound concerns over Narendra Modi because of claims he did little to stop the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, in which at least 1,000 people died, most of them Muslims – allegations he has always denied and over which he was never charged.
The election result will be a crushing blow to the Congress party, which is led by the Nehru-Gandhi family and has dominated Indian politics since independence.
It reflects voter anger with Congress, which has been mired in serious corruption scandals and whose leadership has been considered ineffective in recent years, analysts say.
India’s PM Manmohan Singh rang Narendra Modi to congratulate him on his victory.
Narendra Modi, 63, celebrated with a visit to his elderly mother in Gandhinagar, the state capital of Gujarat.
Latest election results showed the BJP is on course to win 278 seats, surpassing the 272 seats needed to secure a majority in the lower house of parliament.
With their allies, the party could achieve more than 300 seats.
Meanwhile, the Congress party – which has been in power for the past decade – is leading in fewer than 50 seats.
Accepting defeat, the Congress Party spokesman, Shakil Ahmed, said: “We are accepting the people’s verdict in all humility.
“Trends of the counting are certainly not in our favor. The trends point out that the country has decided to vote against us,” he was quoted by news agency AP as saying.
Even before the Congress party’s announcement, there were scenes of jubilation outside the BJP’s headquarters. Firecrackers exploded and people handed out sweets.
More than 500 million people voted in what is the world’s biggest exercise in democracy.
Voter turnout in the mammoth nine-phase general election was a record 66.38%, beating the previous 1984 poll record.
India is voting on the final day of the general election, with crowds turning out in the sacred city of Varanasi, a key battleground.
Opposition BJP leader Narendra Modi is being challenged in the seat by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal.
Opposition BJP leader Narendra Modi is being challenged in the seat by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal
Votes are also being cast in 40 other seats in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal states. The first exit polls are expected on Monday evening.
Narendra Modi is ahead in all the opinion polls. Votes will be counted on May 16.
India’s marathon election began on April 7 and has been held in nine phases for security and logistical reasons.
With 814 million eligible voters, it is the world’s biggest exercise in democracy and the governing Congress party is battling the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for power.
Varanasi has been the scene of frenzied political campaigning not seen in the ancient city in decades. The city been turned into a virtual fortress with thousands of police and paramilitaries deployed to ensure peaceful polling.
Narendra Modi is being given a spirited fight by Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, whose army of volunteers is engaged in extensive door-to-door campaigning.
There are a total of 42 candidates in the fray in the seat, including the Congress party’s Ajay Rai, a local political leader.
Correspondents say that this appears to be the most prestigious and high profile battle in the elections – top leaders from the BJP, Congress and AAP have all campaigned here for their candidates in the past weeks.
“This is a very politically conscious city. The epic battle between Mr. Modi and Mr. Kejriwal has pulled the city out of political oblivion,” says Dr. Vishwanath Pandey, who teaches at the Benares Hindu University.
The state of Uttar Pradesh, where Varanasi is located, returns more lawmakers than any other and is often described as India’s battleground state.
Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges River, has long been neglected despite its religious significance and its infrastructure is badly in need of repair.
Narendra Modi has been accused by India’s Election Commission of violating the election code.
India’s main opposition BJP’s prime ministerial candidate violated poll laws by flashing his party’s symbol and making a political speech while voting was going on in the seventh phase of the election, it said.
Narendra Modi addressed journalists and supporters after casting his vote in his home state of Gujarat.
He later posted a “selfie” of his inked finger on Twitter.
India’s general election, with 814 million eligible voters, is the world’s biggest exercise in democracy and the governing Congress party is battling the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for power. Narendra Modi is ahead in all the opinion polls.
He was greeted by cheering crowds lining the streets and on rooftops as he arrived at the polling station in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s biggest city. Voting was held in all 26 seats in the state.
Andhra Pradesh also voted on Wednesday for the last time as a united state before it is divided on June 2.
Narendra Modi has been accused by India’s Election Commission of violating the election code
Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh were among seven states and two union territories where 139 million eligible voters had to make their choice between some 1,300 candidates contesting 89 seats on Wednesday.
“The BJP will form a stable government in Delhi soon,” Narendra Modi said after casting his vote.
“The Congress party has already conceded defeat… It is the end of the mother-son government,” he added, in a reference to the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul.
But photographs of an upbeat Narendra Modi holding a small white lotus flower, shown on television screens across India, have landed him in trouble with the Election Commission.
The commission said it had seen the video recordings of Narendra Modi’s speech and that it was evident that it was “a political speech intended and calculated to influence and affect the result of elections in the constituencies voting today”. It has now ordered the authorities to register a case against him.
A spokesperson for the BJP said Narendra Modi had done nothing wrong and that the party would respond to the Election Commission notice.
If found guilty, Narendra Modi could be sent to jail for up to two years or asked to pay a fine, or both, but correspondents say it is unlikely to happen.
Narendra Modi is standing for election in two seats – in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi as well as Vadodara in Gujarat. If he wins both seats, he will have to relinquish one.
In Andhra Pradesh – where voting for state assemblies is also taking place – brisk polling was reported through the day.
In Hyderabad city, scores of people complained that their names were missing from the voters’ list and in some polling centers electronic voting machines did not work.
The 17 parliamentary constituencies in Andhra Pradesh going to the polls on Wednesday are to be part of the newly-created state of Telangana.
Voting for the remaining 25 parliamentary seats which will constitute Andhra Pradesh after the state is split in two will be held on May 7.
The marathon general election, which began on April 7, will conclude on May 12. Votes will be counted on May 16.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader Narendra Modi, the man with the biggest chances of winning India’s elections, is to submit his election nomination papers as Indians vote in the sixth phase of their poll.
Narendra Modi arrived in the holy city of Varanasi as supporters from BJP poured onto the streets.
Varanasi will be the scene of an epic battle between Narendra Modi and anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal, who is challenging him there.
There are 117 seats up for grabs on Thursday, but Varanasi votes on May 12.
The ruling Congress party is battling the opposition BJP to win the votes of the 814 million Indians eligible to vote.
About 2,000 candidates are hoping to win over 180 million of those votes as polling takes place in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday.
The southern state of Tamil Nadu, where voting is being held in all 39 seats on Thursday, is a key battleground to watch.
Narendra Modi arrived in the holy city of Varanasi as supporters from BJP poured onto the streets (photo AFP)
More than 35% of votes had been polled by 11:00 local time.
The main contest is between two powerful regional parties – the ruling AIADMK and the main opposition DMK. The two main national parties are fringe players in the state and have traditionally formed alliances in order to ensure power.
India’s financial capital, Mumbai, is also voting on Thursday in what promises to be a keenly-contested battle between two alliances: the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance against a resurgent BJP-Shiv Sena party.
Mumbai usually doesn’t see very high turnouts – it was just over 41% in the 2009 election – but many here say this time things might be different.
In an area where many Bollywood actors live, superstar Aamir Khan has already cast his vote, while Shahrukh Khan is expected to do so in the afternoon.
The marathon vote is being staggered over five weeks for security and logistical reasons. The nine-phase vote began on April 7 and will conclude on May 12. Votes will be counted on May 16.
The main contest in the election is between the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, and the BJP, led by the charismatic and controversial Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi, who is ahead in all the pre-election opinion polls, is the leader of Gujarat state, which witnessed one of India’s worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
Arvind Kejriwal, contesting against Narendra Modi in Varanasi is at the helm of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man’s) Party, which secured a spectacular result in local polls in Delhi last year and offers a challenge to the main parties.
Several smaller regional parties are also in the fray and if no single party wins a clear majority, they could play a crucial role in the formation of a government.
Any party or a coalition needs a minimum of 272 lawmakers to form a government.