NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi voted on Tuesday in the third phase of the ongoing general elections – the biggest round of the seven-phase elections in the world’s largest democracy – and appealed to voters to reelect him for a second term to strengthen the fight against terror.
“On one hand, an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) is the weapon of terrorism. On the other hand, the strength and weapon of Democracy is the Voter ID (voter identity card). I am sure that the power of the Voter ID is much bigger than that of the IED,” Modi said in a press conference after voting in the city of Ahmedabad, in his native western state of Gujarat.
“We should understand the importance of voter ID and vote in high numbers,” said the prime minister, urging voters to cast their ballots in record numbers.
This phase would determine the fate of 117 of the total 543 parliamentary seats in the lower house, with around 200 million voters registered to vote on Tuesday in 13 states and two union territories of India.
According to preliminary data released by the Secretariat of the Election Commission of India, around 51 percent of the registered voters had voted until two hours before the end of polling on Tuesday, a moderate figure keeping in mind the historically high voting percentage in the country, which has nearly 900 million registered voters in total.
The fight against terrorism and national security have been central themes in the ongoing elections, especially after in February India claimed to have carried out airstrikes inside Pakistani territory on the camp of a terror group, which had claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 42 Indian security personnel in India-administered Kashmir on Feb. 14.
This week, after a series of attacks on hotels and churches in Sri Lanka on Sunday killed more than 300 people and injured more than 500, the prime minister has put greater emphasis on the issue of fighting against terrorism and said it formed a part of the “New India” built by his government.
In the Indian parliamentary system, a political party or coalition requires the support of a simple majority: at least 272 lawmakers in the lower house, to form the government.
Modi and his Hindu right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are being touted as favorites to repeat their 2014 victory, although they are facing a tough challenge from the biggest opposition party, the Indian National Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi.
The electoral process will reach its halfway point on April 29, when the fourth round of voting will be held, with results due to be announced on May 23.