Friday Briefing: India’s Election Begins

These Indian polling officials took a boat to a remote polling location. Credit…Reuters

The world’s biggest election begins

Voting begins today in a multistage election in India in which hundreds of millions of people will cast ballots. The election will determine whether their country’s powerful prime minister, Narendra Modi, will stay in office for a third term.

The vote is seen as a referendum on Modi’s economic record and his increasingly centralized and Hindu-first vision of India. The elections run through June 1, and results are expected on June 4.

For insight, I spoke to my colleague Mujib Mashal, the South Asia bureau chief.

How likely is a victory for Modi?

Modi and his coalition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, have a huge, solid majority. And despite an anti-incumbency ethos in Indian elections, Modi is different — his personal appeal is huge. He’s very popular. And he basically rules as one man, without having to go through regular parliamentary discussions and debates.

So the question around this election is: He’s most likely going to win, but will he win the same solid margin that he had, or will it be reduced or he can even be forced into a coalition government?

However, there can always be a surprise element in Indian elections. That’s particularly true because Modi has such tight control of the media and information that you may never get an exact sense of what could be percolating on the ground.

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