Narendra Modi seeks third term as world's biggest election set to take place

Narendra Modi is seeking a third term. Credit: AP

The world’s biggest and most expensive election is due to take place here in India.

On Friday, close to a billion people are going to get the chance to cast their votes in a process that will take more than a month.

To put that figure into context: the number of people eligible to vote in the UK is 44 million and 161 million in the United States.

According to the polls, this election is likely to return Narendra Modi to power to serve a third term as India’s prime minister.

Almost a billion are eligible to vote. Credit: AP

He has, in many ways, become the face of this country and of his party, the BJP, with personality-driven politics.

The one-time tea seller from Gujarat is selling a message of aspiration - for individuals and India itself.

He is building much of his popularity on a robust message of Hindu nationalism and welfare for the poor - with handouts of wheat, rice, fuel and help with home improvements.

In his 10 years in power, he has also focused on supplying clean water and toilets to households. There has been huge investment in roads, rail, air travel and tech.

He’s also targeted corruption across the country.

But given none of his party have been part of that sweep, his motives have been in question. Is this a drive to clean up the country or clear out opponents?

Those opponents are not having a good election.

Opposition parties have created a coalition to challenge Modi but are split apart by their own factions and rivalries, with some pulling out of INDIA - the unity party they hoped could present a strong challenger.

For voters though there is confusion who a vote for INDIA is actually for. All stand for different things. Raul Gandi is the figurehead but with such divergent manifestos clarity of values seems lost on voters.

The BJP are the dominant force in India politics. Credit: AP

Those who stand against him accuse Modi of thwarting their campaign by using the power of office to arrest candidates, freeze bank accounts, and restrict their ability to campaign freely and fairly.

Minority groups - particularly the 200 million Muslims in the country - feel the hardline Hindu nationalism threatens their safety and place in their country and fear a third Modi term.

But those concerns along with growing worry about unemployment, rising prices and farmers' fury at what they say is Modi’s failure to make good promises to increase their income are unlikely to make much difference at the ballot box.

Rahul Gandhi is the main opposition leader. Credit: AP

Many of those we have spoken to say they will put their concerns aside and still vote for Modi and the BJP because they don’t see an opposition that can make their position any better.

Modi sells himself as the king of Hindu hearts - this election is likely to prove that statistically at least he is.The Incumbent

At 73 years of age, Narendra Modi has approval ratings others could only dream of and looks set to become PM for a record-equaling third term.

Only the first PM of an independent India - Nehru - has achieved the same.

Without a wife or family, many see him as a hardworking and honest figurehead and a passionate advocate for Hindu nationalism. Others view him as a polarising, divisive ruler.

His party holds 303 of the 543 seats in the current parliament, in this election he’s seeking 400. That may be over-optimistic but belief in his victory does not.

Credit: AP

The Opposition

The most high-profile opposition figure is 53-year-old Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress Party once dominant in Indian politics.

His grandfather, Jawaharlal “Joe” Nehru was the first PM of an independent India.

His grandmother Indira and father Rajiv were both prime ministers and both assassinated.After years of dynastic politics, voters seem wary of a return.

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