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fourth phase of the Indian election commences with discussions revolving around religion, inequality

In the fourth phase of India’s seven-week general election, voting took place on Monday amidst intensifying campaigning focusing on religious and economic divisions.

With nearly one billion eligible voters in this seven-phase election, which commenced on April 19 in the world’s most populous country, votes are slated to be tallied on June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking a rare third term in office, leads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party against an alliance of over two dozen opposition parties, including chief rival Congress.

Interior Affairs Minister Amit Shah, a close aide to Modi, urged voters to support a decisive government as voting commenced.

Monday marked election day for 96 seats across 10 states and territories, with 177 million eligible voters. Notably, in the southern and eastern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha, where the BJP’s influence is comparatively weaker, a significant number of seats were contested.

Close attention is being paid to the election turnout, as slightly lower numbers in the first three phases have raised concerns about voter disinterest in a contest lacking a compelling focus. Additionally, with maximum temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) in many areas of the nation, the impact of hot weather on voter turnout is also being monitored.

Previous opinion polls had anticipated a landslide victory for the BJP and its allies, but the decreased turnout has cast doubt on that possibility.

Analysts suggest that Modi shifted the focus of his campaign after the first phase, transitioning from highlighting his economic record to accusing the Congress of prioritizing welfare benefits for minority Muslims over underprivileged tribal groups and Hindu castes. The BJP refutes the Congress’s claim of such a pledge and asserts that Modi is concerned about the lower turnout.

India boasts a population of 1.4 billion Hindus, representing approximately 80% of the global Hindu population, alongside 200 million Muslims, ranking it as the world’s third-largest Muslim population. Surveys indicate that the most pressing concerns among voters are rising prices and unemployment.

Under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, the Congress party is advocating for increased representation and welfare programs for India’s underprivileged and impoverished communities. They assert that wealth inequality has worsened during Modi’s tenure, a claim the government denies.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi and a prominent opposition figure, received temporary bail from the Supreme Court, allowing him to campaign. This decision has given a boost to the opposition INDIA alliance, led by the Congress, ahead of Monday’s vote.

Kejriwal, a vocal critic of Modi, was arrested in a liquor policy graft case a month before the elections, prompting allegations that the Modi administration was using investigations and arrests to discredit the opposition.

Kejriwal denies the corruption allegations, while the government maintains that law enforcement actions are unrelated to political motivations.

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