India says it will begin its multi-stage parliamentary election in April, with opinion polls suggesting that an opposition, Hindu nationalist block could upset the longtime ruling Congress Party.
Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath said on Wednesday a staggering 814 million people have registered to vote, making it what could be the world's largest ever election. In a press conference, he described the multi-round voting process.
"The first day of the poll shall be on 7th April, 2014. This is held in two states and the number of parliamentary constituencies will be six. The next date of poll is 9th April, which will cover five states and seven parliamentary constituencies," he said.
In total, nine rounds of voting will be held, with the final round being held May 12. A final result is not expected until May 16.
Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi could become prime minister if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) performs well in the elections, as recent polls suggest.
Many Indians are frustrated with the Congress Party in part because of an economic slowdown and a string of corruption scandals.
Modi's main opponent is 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi. He serves as vice president of the Congress Party, which has dominated India politics since the country's independence from Britain in 1947.
The 81-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is retiring after two terms.
Modi is the chief minister of Gujarat state. His political career was once in jeopardy following criticism of his handling of anti-Muslim riots in 2002 in Gujarat. The violence left more than 1,000 people dead.
Modi denies wrongdoing in the anti-Muslim riots, which are believed to have been sparked when Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Late last year, an Indian court ruled there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.