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India’s Fourth Phase of General Election Sees Heightened Economic and Religious Debates

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India's Fourth Phase of General Election Sees Heightened Economic and Religious Debates

(CTN News) – India voted on Monday in the fourth phase of a seven-week general election, with campaign vitriol intensifying over economic inequality and religious tensions.

The world’s most populous country began voting on April 19 in a seven-phase election in which almost one billion people are eligible to vote. Ballots will be counted on June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is running for a rare third term in a row, pitting his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against a coalition of more than two dozen opposition groups, including its main opponent, Congress.

“I appeal to all to vote for a decisive government,” said Amit Shah, Modi’s prominent advisor and the country’s home or interior minister, as the voting began.
On Monday, voting for 96 parliament seats took place primarily in the southern and eastern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha, where the BJP is weaker than in the north and west.

Srinagar, the turbulent Kashmir Valley’s largest city, has also been voting for the first election since Modi’s 2019 decision to end the region’s semi-autonomy. The BJP is not contesting because analysts believe the outcome will contradict Modi’s vision of a peaceful, integrated Kashmir.

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“I voted after over two decades… just to get relief from what we are facing here,” said 67-year-old Srinagar resident Bashir Ahmad Lala.

Police restricted rallies in the militarized zone before the vote, and opposition parties claimed that their workers had been arrested, which police disputed.
Farooq Abdullah, president of the National Conference party and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, stated that Modi and Shah “will definitely get defeated” nationally.

Asaduddin Owaisi, a prominent Muslim member from Hyderabad, which also voted on Monday, said the BJP lost support after Modi’s recent “venomous” remarks toward minority Muslims.

“An individual cannot be larger than a country. So, Modi is not the country,” he said. Modi has stated that he does not oppose Muslims and that his government does not discriminate.

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Analysts have questioned whether the BJP and its allies will win the landslide anticipated by opinion surveys, claiming that decreased turnout drove Modi to rethink his campaign strategy after the first phase.

Modi has moved the attention away from his economic achievements and toward accusing Congress of trying to increase welfare benefits for Muslims at the expense of impoverished tribal groups and Hindu castes.

Last month, he stated that the Congress intended to shift the riches of the majority of Hindus to Muslims, whom he referred to as “infiltrators” with “more children”.

The Congress has denied making such pledges and claims the turnout spooks Modi, something the BJP disputes.

Approximately 80% of India’s 1.4 billion inhabitants are Hindus, but the country also contains the world’s third-largest Muslim population of around 200 million. Polls show that voters are most concerned about unemployment and price increases.

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“I will vote for someone who is educated and can develop our area,” said Pradipta Kumar Sethi, who lives in Odisha’s tribal Koraput district.

Congress advocates for better representation and social programs for poor and disadvantaged groups, claiming that wealth disparity has deteriorated under Modi’s 10-year tenure, something the government has refuted.

“Do not be deterred by the diversionary tactics of hateful speeches that divide society,” Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge wrote in an address to voters.

The opposition INDIA coalition received a boost ahead of Monday’s vote when the Supreme Court granted temporary bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had been arrested in a graft case, allowing him to campaign.

The influence of hot weather on turnout was also being examined since maximum temperatures in several regions of the country had reached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or more the previous week.

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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