India election 2019: latest updates

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10:43 a.m. ET, April 25, 2019

Indian officials travel 40 miles into forest so one man can vote

Bharatdas Darshandas, a priest, lives at a remote temple in the Gir forest.
Bharatdas Darshandas, a priest, lives at a remote temple in the Gir forest. Somnath District Election Office, Gujarat

The Indian Election Commission set up a polling booth for a single voter deep inside the Gir forest in the western state of Gujarat.

A day before the third phase of elections began, five officials traveled about 60 kilometers (40 miles) into the forest to set up an entire voting facility for one man.

Bharatdas Darshandas, a local priest, lives at a remote temple in the depths of the Gir forest.

India's Election Commission must provide all voters with a polling booth in their vicinity.
India's Election Commission must provide all voters with a polling booth in their vicinity. Somnath District Election Office, Gujarat

“This is done for every election. The Election Commission criteria is that we have to provide polling station for every person within a two-kilometre radius,” said Vinod Chandra Prajapati, deputy district election officer.

The Gir forest is one of the oldest sanctuaries for lions in India and is uninhabited for the most part.

No voter should have to travel more than two kilometers to a polling station, according to the Election Commission.
No voter should have to travel more than two kilometers to a polling station, according to the Election Commission. Somnath District Election Office, Gujarat

As Darshandas stepped out of the polling booth, he said, “I have today and I would like to ask everyone to use their individual vote and there should be 100 percent voting. Just like there was 100% voting here, it should be so everywhere.”

Due to the geography and the extensive terrain of India, the Election Commission has to ensure that every person is provided with a polling booth in their vicinity.

"There should be 100 percent voting,"  Darshandas said after leaving the polling booth.
"There should be 100 percent voting,"  Darshandas said after leaving the polling booth. Somnath District Election Office, Gujarat

“Because he resides there, we have to get here. Whether he casts his vote or not, it does not matter -- we have to go there and set up the booth,” said Prajapati.

8:07 a.m. ET, April 25, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead massive roadshow in Varanasi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading this election’s biggest roadshow Thursday through the city of Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The roadshow, is a show of strength and power of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Hindu nerve center of North India. Modi is seeking re-election from Varanasi.

During a two-day trip, Modi is addressing rallies in the constituency and spoke at the Banaras Hindu University earlier this afternoon. He will be filing his nomination papers as a candidate Friday morning.

Uttar Pradesh is the most important state electorally in the general elections. The state accounts for 80 seats of which BJP won 71 in 2014. The Modi juggernaut has promised that it would win more this time around.

Thousands of supporters descended on the city with saffron flags and scarves with the party name and symbol stamped on them.

Varanasi was Modi’s choice of contest in the 2014 elections. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, Varanasi is located on the banks of the Ganga river and attracts Hindu pilgrims from across the country who bathe in the sacred river.

In 2014, the BJP won by a momentous landslide decimating the main opposition party, Congress to just 44 out of 545 seats in the Lok Sabha. Congress is hoping to gain some of the lost momentum back in this cycle.

Congress announced Thursday that Ajay Rai would once again be its candidate in Varanasi. Rai won just 7% of the vote in 2014.

Modi won the election in 2014 by 56.37% of the total vote. He is also the face of the election campaign in 2019 with candidates across the country betting on a second Modi wave to carry them to victory.

7:10 a.m. ET, April 23, 2019

Modi casts his vote

Prime Minister Narendra Modi cast his vote in the city of Ahmedabad Tuesday in the third phase of the Indian elections, saying his country had lessons for the world.

“It is the power of India’s democracy that we can show the world the value of a democracy with our example,” he said after voting.

Modi, a resident of Gujarat, is contesting the elections from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh – one of the most religiously significant cities in the country.

“Voted! It feels great to be taking part in our democratic process,” he tweeted.

 

7:10 a.m. ET, April 23, 2019

The third phase of India’s general election gets underway: What to watch out for

Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wear T-shirts supporting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bhopal on April 23, 2019.
Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wear T-shirts supporting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bhopal on April 23, 2019. Gagan Nayar/AFP/Getty Images

The third phase of India’s mammoth general election is underway, with voters in 117 constituencies heading to the polls across 13 states and two union territories.

Tuesday will conclude the voting in the bellwether states of Gujarat, Kerala, and Karnataka.

There are four more rounds of voting still to come in the world’s largest election involving over 900 million voters in total, but this is the largest phase so far.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main opposition party Congress will face off directly in Gujarat.

In the previous national election in 2014, the BJP won all the seats in the state but Congress expects to make headway after a stronger than expected performance in the 2017 state elections there.

In Karnataka last year, Congress narrowly defeated the BJP to form a coalition government.

BJP president Amit Shah is standing for election for the lower house for the first time, in the city of Gandhinagar in Gujarat. For the past two years he has sat in the upper house of Parliament. Shah led the party to sweeping victories in his tenure as its president and campaign manager.

Another constituency to watch is Wayanad in Kerala, one of two seats being contested by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. He has traditionally run for election from his home seat of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh but added the Kerala seat to his list a few weeks ago.

Gandhi has said he is standing there to make the point that the states in southern India are just as important as those in the Hindu heartland in the north.

Ballots will also be cast in the states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Tiny Goa, with two seats, will also vote on Tuesday, as will the northeastern state of Tripura where polling was postponed last week due to security shortcomings.

Voting will end at 5 p.m Tuesday, with the next phase scheduled for April 29.

The seventh and final phase is on May 19 with the overall result to be announced four days later.

6:08 a.m. ET, April 19, 2019

It's Gandhi against Gandhi and Gandhi in Kerala’s Wayanad

Voters in Kerala's Wayanad constituency are going to have plenty of Gandhis to choose from when they go to polls on April 23.

Out of the 20 contesting candidates, three are namesakes of Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.

Rahul Gandhi K E, Raghul Gandhi K, and K M Sivaprasad Gandhi are the other three men who will be competing against the leader of India’s main opposition party, Congress.

The more famous Rahul Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s main opponent, is contesting elections from two seats, one from his traditional seat in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh Kerala's Wayanad -- which he chose during this election cycle.

The idyllic district set among the mountains in India’s southern state of Kerala is set to receive more attention than it has ever received before.

In a statement, Gandhi said that he is contesting from the southern state to illustrate the importance of South India -- which critics say does not receive as much attention from the central government compared to states in the Hindu heartland.

6:09 a.m. ET, April 19, 2019

India suspends cross-border trade with Pakistan

India has suspended cross-border trade across its de-facto border with Pakistan in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry of Home Affairs said Thursday.

The suspension, which took effect on Friday, will shut down trade for four days every week. It was not clear for how long the suspension would last.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the government had been receiving reports that trade routes across the Line of Control were "being misused by the Pakistan based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”

Leaders in Kashmir criticized the move as an opportunistic ploy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the expense of peace in the state.

Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, tweeted that the state had been asking for full truck scanners at trade points to stop illegal activity, but "rather than install the scanners the Govt has taken the regressive & highly unfortunate step of throwing the baby out with the bath water."

The suspension of trade comes exactly three months after the deadly Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian soldiers and escalated tensions between India and Pakistan.

“It has been revealed that the trade has changed its character to mostly third party trade, and products from other regions including foreign countries, are finding their way through this route. Unscrupulous and anti-national elements are using the route as a conduit for Hawala (black) money, drugs and weapons, under the garb of this trade,” said the ministry statement.

Two crossings on the Kashmir border will be affected by the latest order.

2:05 a.m. ET, April 19, 2019

How one of India's biggest airlines imploded

Jet Airways struggled in the face of increasing competition, a volatile currency and higher oil prices.
Jet Airways struggled in the face of increasing competition, a volatile currency and higher oil prices. Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

Almost 26 years to the day after its first flight, one of India's biggest airlines has thrown in the towel.

Jet Airways announced late Wednesday that it was indefinitely suspending all flights after it ran out of cash, marking a swift downfall for an airline that dominated India's fast-growing aviation industry for years.

What happened?

Airline founder Naresh Goyal began operating Jet Airways in 1993 after India liberalized its economy, and over the next two decades he grew it into one of India's top airlines.

But as millions more Indians started taking to the skies, newer players like SpiceJet and IndiGo burst onto the scene providing no-frills flights that were cheaper alternatives than Jet Airways.

Foreign carriers also offered stiff competition on international routes, and government taxes on fuel added to costs.

Despite posting mounting losses and racking up debt reportedly worth $1.2 billion, Jet Airways clung on. 

Until now.

Read Rishi Iyengar's full story here.

2:07 a.m. ET, April 19, 2019

Thursday's poll saw a voter turnout of 66%

Voting concluded for the second phase of India’s general elections Thursday. An estimated 158 million people, including 78 million women, were eligible to vote.

Some 176,000 polling stations were set up in a total of 95 constituencies across 11 states and one union territory.

The tentative turn out by poll close at 5 p.m. was 66% across all constituencies, according to the Election Commission. The tiny territory of Puducherry scored the highest turn out with 78%.

India’s elections have been split across seven phases, with the last poll on May 19. Fourteen states and union territories have now concluded voting.

The first vote on April 11 saw a voter turnout of 69.4%, with 68% of eligible male voters turning out, 68.53% of women.

The next date to watch is April 23, when India goes to the polls for the third phase.

9:17 a.m. ET, April 18, 2019

Woman accused in terror case will stand for BJP

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) announced the candidature of a woman accused in a terror case to one of its most coveted seats in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

This is the first time a political party has nominated someone who has been accused of terror activities, signaling a shift in the political rhetoric of the Hindu nationalist BJP.

Pragya Thakur is suspected of orchestrating the bomb blast that took six lives and injured 101 people in Malegaon in 2008. She is currently out on bail and is also running in the parliamentary elections on a BJP ticket.

The bomb blast took place in the city of Malegaon in Maharashtra when an improvised explosive device hidden in a motorcycle was detonated in a predominantly Muslim area.

Pragya Thakur (in orange) is seen after a meeting at a state BJP office on April 17 in Bhopal, India.
Pragya Thakur (in orange) is seen after a meeting at a state BJP office on April 17 in Bhopal, India. Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Thakur, who is also known as Sadhvi Pragya, was arrested along with 11 other accused and charged by the Anti-Terror Squad for murder, terrorism, arms possession among other charges.

The BJP state unit tweeted its support for Thakur. “These elections will now be a battle of religious ideologies. On one side is a man who has labelled Hindus as terrorists and on the other side is the true follower of Hindu religion, Sadhvi Pragya,” said the statement.

BJP’s move to induct Thakur into its cadre has received criticism from all sides. She is being challenged by Digvijay Singh, a veteran politician with the Congress party.

The National Investigation Agency dropped the charges it had filed against her though Thakur is still to face trial under other charges.

“I have been given a clean chit. Whatever conspiracies were hatched against me, they have failed,” said Thakur to reporters Wednesday.

Bhopal has elected leaders from the BJP since the late 80s and is considered one of the safest seats in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

However, after the rout BJP faced last year in the state elections, local administration is working hard to not allow Congress to gain momentum in the national elections as well.