Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined millions of his citizens Tuesday in casting a ballot in the third phase of the world’s biggest general election.
As many as 188 million Indians across 13 states and two federally-controlled territories are eligible to vote for candidates in 117 parliamentary districts, making it the largest of the six rounds of voting.
Prime Minister Modi accompanied his elderly mother to his voting place in his home state of Gujarat to cast his ballot. The leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has centered his campaign on national security and fighting terrorism. He told reporters that “voter ID is much more powerful than an IED,” a reference to improvised explosive devices typically used by terrorists.
Modi’s standing has been bolstered by his response to February's suicide car bomb attack that killed more than 40 Indian security forces in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Indian fighter jets crossed over the border into neighboring Pakistan and conducted airstrikes on an alleged training camp operated by the Pakistan-based outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group, which reportedly claimed responsibility for the Kashmir suicide bombing.
But the Indian prime minister is facing a strong challenge from the opposition Congress Party and its leader, Rahul Gandhi, which has attacked Modi on his stewardship of the economy and plunging farm incomes due to low crop prices.
As many as 900 million of India's 1.3 billion citizens are eligible to vote for thousands of candidates vying for 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting will end on May 19, with the final results announced on May 23.