India election to start on April 11 as Modi seeks second term

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is seeking a second term in office.

New Delhi, India (CNN)The Indian general election will begin on April 11, the country's Election Commission announced Sunday, with voters poised to decide whether to renew their faith in nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Politicians are already in campaign mode for what is the world's largest exercise in democracy, with around 900 million people eligible to cast a vote.
Indians will be voting for the 545-seat lower house of parliament -- called the Lok Sabha -- and polling will unfold over seven phases around the country ending on May 19. Of the total, 543 seats will be up for grabs in the coming election.
    All the votes -- from the country's 29 states and seven union territories -- will be counted on May 23, the commission said at a press conference in New Delhi.
    Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are seeking re-election after a landslide victory in 2014, winning 282 seats -- the largest majority by a single party in 30 years.
    Congress party supporters hold party flags during the launch of the party's campaign in Punjab ahead of the upcoming elections.
    The election is coming off the back of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region that almost brought the two nuclear armed neighbors to the brink of war.
    India took a hard line with Pakistan during the crisis, accusing the country of not doing enough to stop terrorists active within its borders. While terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing in the Pulwama district of Kashmir, which precipitated the crisis, New Delhi also said Pakistan had a "direct hand" in the attack. Islamabad denied the claim.
    India also said it had launched airstrikes on what it alleged was a terrorist training camp across the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region.
    The strong line from New Delhi could boost Modi's image as being strong on defense and fire up the BJP's nationalist domestic base.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi on December 13, 2017 in New Delhi, India.