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India Commences First Phase of Pivotal Election as Modi Vies for Third Term

NEW DELHI (AP) — On Friday, millions of Indian voters began participating in a significant six-week electoral process that could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi secure an unprecedented third term. Modi, a leader known for his vigorous Hindu nationalist agenda, faces one of the most pivotal elections in the nation’s history.

The initial phase of voting commenced early morning, with long lines forming at polling stations across 21 states—from the Himalayan regions to the Andaman Islands. Nearly 970 million individuals are eligible to vote for 543 members of the lower house of Parliament, with the staggered voting process set to conclude on June 1. The results are scheduled to be announced on June 4.

This election not only tests Modi’s enduring influence in Indian politics but also stands as a crucial referendum on his governance. If successful, Modi will become only the second leader after Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s inaugural Prime Minister, to win a third term.

Opinion polls currently favor Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which confronts a formidable challenge from a broad coalition of opposition parties, including the Indian National Congress and other regional powerhouses. The opposition coalition, known as INDIA, has yet to nominate a prime ministerial candidate, reflecting uncertainty about its leadership.

The BJP, traditionally strong in the Hindi-speaking northern and central regions, is now making concerted efforts to expand its influence in eastern and southern India. Tamil Nadu poses a significant challenge for the BJP, where it has historically struggled to gain traction against dominant regional parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

In Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, voters expressed their desire for change, citing concerns over escalating prices, unemployment, and religious divisions exacerbated under BJP’s rule. Mary Das, a 65-year-old voter, emphasized the importance of national unity and religious harmony, values she felt were being undermined.

P. Chidambaram, a prominent figure in the Congress party and former finance minister, voiced the sentiment that Tamil Nadu’s electorate would reject the BJP’s homogenizing policies, which he claimed impose uniformity in language, culture, dietary choices, and governance.

As the elections unfold, the political dynamics in states like Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, where voters faced harsh weather conditions at the polls, will be critical in determining whether Modi’s BJP can maintain its dominance or if the opposition can orchestrate a significant political shift.

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