World / Asia-Pacific

Indians vote in final phase of national elections

(Xinhua/Agencies) Updated: 2014-05-12 15:49

Indians vote in final phase of national elections

A voter (C) leaves after casting her vote inside a polling station in the final phase of the general election in Kolkata May 12, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

NEW DELHI - Millions of Indian voters wrapped up the country's mammoth national election Monday, braving the searing sun on the final day of polling in which an opposition candidate is seen as the front-runner for prime minister.

With 814 million eligible voters, India has been voting in phases over six weeks, with results expected Friday.

In Uttar Pradesh, all eyes are on the Varanasi constituency from where the country's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP)'s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the anti-graft Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal are contesting the polls.

Exit polls are expected Monday night after the final round of voting ends.

Opinion polls have suggested that the BJP will form the next government, with Modi as the prime minister, while the ruling Congress party is facing anti-incumbency due to its inability to tackle corruption and inflation.

Thousands lined up early Monday to vote in the revered Hindu holy city of Varanasi, where Narendra Modi is seeking election. The temperature was expected to soar to 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit).

A clash erupted as the voting opened in West Bengal state, where Ajay Dasgupta, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) spokesman, accused governing Trinamool Congress workers of firing at his party supporters, wounding four of them.

The clash was reported in a village 35 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Calcutta, the state capital. The Trinamool Congress party denied the charge.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center said 63 percent of Indians prefer the BJP over the incumbent Congress Party.

Modi's chief rival is Rahul Gandhi, the 43-year-old vice president of Congress and scion of the Gandhi family.

Indians turned out in large numbers to vote, with the Election Commission saying the turnout percentage over the six weeks in 502 parliamentary constituencies until May 8 was 66.27 percent, up from 58.13 percent in 2009 elections.

Elections in India are generally considered free and fair, with even the powerful often falling to defeat. But there are also challenges, with age-old traditions of caste loyalty, patriarchy and nepotism often influencing voting patterns.

This year's election was bitterly fought, and often marred by religious divisions and personal attacks.

The BJP's carefully crafted and well-financed campaign promises good governance at a time when the ruling Congress party has been plagued by repeated scandals, and its leader Rahul Gandhi has generally failed to inspire the public, leaving many analysts to predict that the BJP will likely emerge with the largest number of seats.

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