India calls elections for April-May

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India announced yesterday a general election to be held over nearly six weeks starting on April 11, when hundreds of millions voters will cast ballots in the world’s biggest democracy.

The poll will see right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi run for a second term against Rahul Gandhi of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty to lead the world’s second-most populous nation.

Some 900 million voters from the Himalayan peaks to the deserts and tropical shores are eligible to vote for a new government for the next five years in an enormous democratic undertaking.

From April 11 to May 19 voters will elect 543 lawmakers to India’s Lower House of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, which governs the Asian nation of 1.25 billion people from the capital New Delhi, the electoral commission said Sunday.

Counting will be completed and final results announced on May 23, it said.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Gandhi’s left-leaning Congress are the two strongest challengers among hundreds of political parties from across the culturally and geographically diverse country.

Modi, whose right-wing party won an outright majority in the 2014 elections, enters the race in a strong position, the 68-year-old remaining a popular figure and the BJP a well-oiled political machine.