India will hold a general election in seven stages starting on April 11, the election commission said Sunday, in what will be the world’s biggest democratic exercise with the far-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi likely to benefit from tension with Pakistan.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora told reporters that about 900 million voters would be eligible for the polls, about 15 million between the ages of 18 and 19 years.
Votes will be counted on May 23, he said.
On the other hand, India’s election commission issued a notice asking political parties not to use images of the country’s armed forces in their campaign posters and other advertising during its upcoming general election.
The notice followed pictures posted to social media recently showing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party using images in their campaign posters of a captured Indian Air Force pilot recently returned by Pakistan after a clash with India over the disputed Kashmir territory.
The Election Commission said in a notice on its website Saturday that political parties must refrain from using photographs of defense personnel in advertisements or their election campaign propaganda as the armed forces are “apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a modern democracy.”
Until a few weeks ago, a shortage of jobs and weak farm prices were seen as denting Modi’s popularity.
But pollsters say his ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a clear advantage over opposition parties after India’s armed forces clashed with those of arch-rival Pakistan last month, triggering a wave of patriotic fervor across the country of 1.3 billion.