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Counting begins in India mega-election

Bharatiya Janata Party supporters wave party flags at an election rally in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India, Tuesday, May 21, 2024.
Bharatiya Janata Party supporters wave party flags at an election rally in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, India, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Copyright Rajesh Kumar Singh/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Rajesh Kumar Singh/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Voting in the world's largest democracy is widely seen as a referendum on the current prime minister Modi.

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India started counting votes from its staggered, six-week election on Tuesday.

Exit polls by major television channels have predicted a comfortable win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies.

Modi is now expected to serve a third five-year term, after a decade in power.

His business-friendly policies have won him widespread support among India’s corporations and industry.

However, Modi is a controversial figure domestically and internationally, with his party accused of inflaming anti-Muslim sentiment.

Modi's Hindu nationalist party faced off against a broad opposition alliance led by the Congress party and its main campaign leader, Rahul Gandhi.

Nearly 970 million people — more than 10% of the world’s population — were eligible to vote and turnout averaged 66%, according to official data.

The tallying at counting centres in 543 constituencies could stretch well into the evening before final results are announced, though substantial leads are likely to emerge earlier.

The process is expected to be completed by the end of the day Tuesday.

Votes were cast at more than a million polling stations staggered over the last six weeks.

That brought the final phase into India’s hottest season, with temperatures higher than 45 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country, with election officials saying they had learnt a valuable lesson.

“We should have completed the election at least one month before,” chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar said ahead of the start of the counting.

“We shouldn’t have let it continue into so much heat.”

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