India election: Modi submits nomination papers as Indians vote

BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi (C) gestures to supporters during a rally in Varanasi on April 24, 2014 Narendra Modi has been welcomed in Varanasi by thousands of supporters

Narendra Modi, the man expected to be India's next leader, has submitted his election nomination papers as Indians voted in the sixth phase of their poll.

He arrived in the holy city of Varanasi as supporters from his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) thronged the streets.

The city will be the scene of an epic battle between Mr Modi and anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal, who is challenging him there.

There are 117 seats up for grabs on Thursday, but Varanasi votes on 12 May.

The ruling Congress party is battling the opposition BJP to win the votes of the 814 million Indians eligible to vote.

Analysis

Despite temperatures of up to 35C (95F) voters have been queuing up at polling stations across Chennai.

Among the first voters at the grand 89-year-old Loyola College, were the Balasundarams.

Now in their 80s and leaning on each other for support, they've voted in every election since India's independence in 1947.

"It's our duty," they say, smiling broadly.

Chennai Central is one of the 39 constituencies in Tamil Nadu. One of the candidates is former telecoms minister, Dayanidhi Maran, from one of the two main Tamil regional parties.

Unlike in the rest of India, the two national parties - Congress and the BJP - do not have much of a presence here.

"We have never felt the need for an outsider here," says Anand Krishnamoorthy, who works as a sound engineer.

Since 1984 no party has won an outright majority in parliament and has had to depend on smaller parties for support. So the vote in Tamil Nadu becomes critical.

"Whoever wins will be part of the federal coalition," says Sanjay Bhansali, whose family migrated to Chennai from the north three generations ago. "Tamil Nadu will always be in power."

About 2,000 candidates were hoping to win over 180 million of those votes as polling took place in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday.

Star voters

Election Commission officials said the voter turnout was heavy in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam, but it was poor in Maharashtra and its capital, Mumbai.

The southern state of Tamil Nadu, where voting was held in all 39 seats on Thursday, is a key battleground to watch.

The main contest in the state is between two powerful regional parties - the ruling AIADMK and the main opposition DMK, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder reports from the state capital, Chennai. The two main national parties are fringe players in the state and have traditionally formed alliances in order to ensure power.

India's financial capital, Mumbai, is seeing a keenly-contested battle between two alliances: the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance against a resurgent BJP-Shiv Sena party.

Mumbai usually doesn't see very high turnouts - it was just over 41% in the 2009 election - and reports said things weren't very different this time either.

The city is also home to Bollywood stars and a number of them voted including big names such as Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Vidya Balan.

Sanjoy Majumder reports from the key state of Tamil Nadu

Indian voters crowd around polling officials to search for their names on the electoral list at a polling booth in Mumbai on April 24, 2014. India's financial capital has seen a steady stream of voters, contrary to some expectations
Voters casting their ballots in Assam on 24 April 2014 Among the 180 million votes up for grabs are those in the north-eastern state of Assam

POLLING DAYS

  • 7 April - 2 states, 6 constituencies
  • 9 April - 5 states, 7 constituencies
  • 10 April - 14 states, 91 constituencies
  • 12 April - 4 states, 7 constituencies
  • 17 April - 12 states, 121 constituencies
  • 24 April - 12 states, 117 constituencies
  • 30 April - 9 states, 89 constituencies
  • 7 May - 7 states, 64 constituencies
  • 12 May - 3 states, 41 constituencies
  • Counting of votes - 16 May
Voting in phases

The marathon vote is being staggered over five weeks for security and logistical reasons. The nine-phase vote began on 7 April and will conclude on 12 May. Votes will be counted on 16 May.

The main contest in the election is between the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, and the BJP, led by the charismatic and controversial Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi.

Mr Modi, who is ahead in all the pre-election opinion polls, is the leader of Gujarat state, which witnessed one of India's worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

Arvind Kejriwal, contesting against Mr Modi in Varanasi is at the helm of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man's) Party, which secured a spectacular result in local polls in Delhi last year and offers a challenge to the main parties.

Several smaller regional parties are also in the fray and if no single party wins a clear majority, they could play a crucial role in the formation of a government.

Any party or a coalition needs a minimum of 272 MPs to form a government.

Map of India's electoral stages 7 April-12 May

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