The fifth and final stage of voting in India’s general election is due to take place today.
86 parliamentary seats are up for grabs across nine states and union territories. Few expect a clear mandate from voters after what many say has been a lacklustre campaign. All eyes will be on the large key states of Tamil Nadu in the south and Kashmir in the north. Polls suggest neither of the main parties will win an outright majority. The Congress Party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has overseen India’s spectacular economic growth, but faced criticism over its handling of November’s Mumbai attacks. While the Hindu Nationalist Party, with an elderly and fragmented leadership, has been blamed for stoking tensions between India’s Hindu majority and large Muslim minority. It is hoped there will be no repeat of the sporadic violence which marred the fourth round of voting last week. With 714 million voters, India is the world’s largest democracy. And with more than 5000 candidates, creative techniques were needed to get noticed. Efforts ranged from Bollywood actors to sand sculptures. Vote counting will begin early on Saturday, with the result due later in the weekend.