NEW DELHI: India, the world’s largest democracy, announced on Wednesday it would stage a five-week election from April 7 that is expected to bring Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi to power on a platform of economic revival.
Voting for the 543-member parliament is set to take place in nine phases until May 12 with counting scheduled four days later on May 16, when the ruling Congress party faces a likely defeat.
The biggest election in history will see 814 million adults eligible to vote, from the remote Himalayas in the north to India’s tropical southern tip—100 million more than last time in 2009.
The Election Commission chose the dates taking into account the availability of security forces to guard the nearly one million polling booths, as well as the onset of India’s scorching summer.
Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath appealed for “high standards of political discourse and fair play in the course of the campaign” as a model code of conduct came into force.
The contest will pit Modi, son of a tea-stall owner from the western state of Gujarat, against Rahul Gandhi, the Harvard and Cambridge-educated scion of the dynasty, which has dominated post-independence politics.
After two terms of coalition government led by Gandhi’s leftist Congress party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Modi is widely forecast to emerge as the largest party in the new parliament.
“The nation wants development, progress, it wants low inflation and the people want to rid themselves of this corruption,” senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the dates were announced.