Last election day in India: – Absolutely unbelievable

Last election day in India: – Absolutely unbelievable

New Delhi: Women line up to vote during the sixth round of elections, May 25, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters/NTB

Millions of Indians flocked to the polls. On Sunday afternoon, an Election Day poll showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party leading.

How do you hold an election with 970 million eligible voters?

-The exercise logistics and endurance are absolutely incredible, says Kathinka Froestad. She is Professor of Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Oslo.

With more than 1.4 billion people, India will overtake China in 2023 as the world's most populous country.

Kathinka Frostad
Kathinka Frostad

Professor of Modern South Asian Studies

One of the things I find most interesting is the unimaginable scale of this election. How an incredible number of people have the right to vote, and how extremely complicated, expensive and tedious it is to arrange elections in such a country.

– It is the population of Norway. I don't even know!

Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been ranked as the front-runner in this year's elections. He has already been prime minister for 10 years, but is very popular with many voters.

-He is greatly loved by his followers and is seen as the great and powerful man of India. Frostad says it will bring India into a new era.

Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party also has a very good political organization that has been adept at tipping elections in its favour, she says.

Television channel NDTV collated the results of the two election day polls on Sunday. These results show that Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist party can win more than 350 seats in the lower house of the Indian National Assembly. The number of council seats is 543, so they will have a clear majority.

Followers: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has many passionate followers and “WhatsApp soldiers” — his messages spread on the WhatsApp messaging service at lightning speed, says Froestad. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/NTP

Not as popular as he thought

Meanwhile, the 73-year-old has made himself unpopular.

– There are many who believe that he exaggerated in his claim that India has achieved tremendous economic success, and at the same time there are many Indians who do not share this progress.

She also mentions the authoritarian direction Modi has taken in India, and that Modi sometimes has divisive Hindu nationalist rhetoric.

– It's getting a little interesting. Many of those involved in the political debate believe that Modi's popularity is not as high as was thought just a few weeks ago.

– She says he is very hated by those who prefer other parties.

On antiretrovirals? Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (X) wears his usual white and 'People' t-shirt. Here with his mother Sonia Gandhi (TV). Sonia Gandhi was previously the longest-serving leader of the Congress Party. She is also the daughter-in-law of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the widow of former Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi. Photograph: Sahiba Chowdhury/Reuters/NTB

The alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party is a coalition led by the secular opposition Congress Party, along with a number of regional parties.

– They agree on some matters, including their desire to oust Modi from power. At the same time, they are mutual rivals and disagree about a lot. So the alliance is fragile.

She says, among other things, that they are not clear about who the prime ministerial candidate is.

– They do not have a coherent program.

Economy and identity

The elections began on April 19, and were carried out in seven rounds in different parts of the country. The final of the seven rounds will be held on Saturday, June 1. The results of the Lok Sabha elections are expected to appear on June 4.

The election was largely about the economy and what India's cultural heritage should be, says Frostad.

– What architecture, what memorials to pay attention to, what collective expressions and collective memory India should have.

Modi represents Hindus first, even if they do not say so explicitly.

She says there is an ongoing battle over who India should be for.

The country is deeply religious and religion is a central identity marker for Indians. Nearly 80 percent of the population is Hindu, while 14 percent of the population is Muslim. In addition, there are many Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains.

India has also been criticized for moving in an authoritarian direction. Is it a real democracy?

There is a lot of talk about Modi and his party’s strong control over a number of state institutions that are supposed to be neutral, such as the Electoral Commission, the media, and other institutions.

– It is increasingly difficult to stop them in their actions – but at the same time we have seen that the Indian Supreme Court has at times sided against the BJP. I must also say that this election campaign has shown that the media, and perhaps some newspapers in particular, are more critical than I have seen them in a long time. I would say the photo is probably shared.

be seen: At the same time as the elections were taking place in India, there was also a dramatic heat wave:

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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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