India election phase 5: Latest updates

6:50 a.m. ET, May 8, 2019

For more on India's election

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally in New Delhi and other election coverage read more.

6:59 a.m. ET, May 6, 2019

Election tourism offers travelers a chance to see Indian democracy in action

Indian women sit inside an auto-rickshaw as they show their ink-marked fingers after casting their vote in Alwar in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan on May 6, 2019.
Indian women sit inside an auto-rickshaw as they show their ink-marked fingers after casting their vote in Alwar in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan on May 6, 2019. MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

For most travelers, a trip to India might center around temples, forts, festivals and food.

But for one niche set of visitors, it's all about "election tourism" right now.

Home to the world's largest democracy -- with up to 900 million votes being cast in the current parliamentary election -- India is an ideal place to immerse yourself in politics, history and culture.

Throughout the elections, on till May 23, local villages, towns and cities are buzzing with energy and events. And that's exactly what Akshar Travels hopes to highlight with its collection of political tours and experiences.

"When elections are happening, it's like a festival over here. The people and all the political parties are holding events, rallies, parties and parades to promote their visions," Manish Sharma, founder of Akshar Travels, tells CNN Travel.

"You can see that the energy and the participation is tremendous. It is in our blood, it's our passion."

This year, the company expects to welcome about 10,000 travelers on its six- to eight-day election tours. Each group is accompanied by a dedicated guide, which Akshar Travels has hand-picked and trained.

So far, Sharma says the majority of guests tend to be researchers, university students, special interest groups, history lovers, culture enthusiasts and journalists from all over the world -- in particular, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Read more on India's election tourism here.

6:50 a.m. ET, May 6, 2019

Phase five voter turnout 50.32% at 3 p.m.

India's Election Commission has released its estimated voter turnout from polling for phase five, as it stands at 3 p.m. local time.

Estimated turnout across all seven states voting Monday is 50.32%. A more complete turnout will be released at the close of polls.

Here's a state by state run down as it stands currently:

6:47 a.m. ET, May 6, 2019

Phase five in pictures

Indian voters queue at a polling station to cast their ballots during the fifth phase of general election in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh state on May 6, 2019.
Indian voters queue at a polling station to cast their ballots during the fifth phase of general election in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh state on May 6, 2019. SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/Getty Images

Some 87 million voters across seven states are casting their ballots today in India's mammoth elections.

674 candidates are contesting for 51 seats in the Lok Sabha -- India's lower house of parliament.

Here's the polling in pictures:

Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard at a polling station in Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir on May 6, 2019.
Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard at a polling station in Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir on May 6, 2019. TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images

Security is tight in Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir, where a group attempted to set fire to a school which was housing a polling station but were stopped by security officials.

Kashmiri women wearing burkas work at a polling station in Shopian district, south of Srinagar.

MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images
MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

Indian women walk past a queue of voters at a polling station in Charanwala village, in Sanganer on the outskirts of Jaipur.

MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images
MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

Voters queue at a polling station to cast their vote in the village of Panwaliya in Sanganer, on the outskirts of Jaipur.

MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images
MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

An Indian woman poses for a picture as she shows her ink-marked finger after casting her vote in village Kapoorawala on the outskirts of Jaipur.

6:10 a.m. ET, May 6, 2019

Modi urges people to vote today 'in large numbers'

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged those voting Monday to do so in large numbers.

There are 87 million people eligible to vote today and they'll be doing so in 96,000 polling stations in constituencies across seven states, mainly in the north and central India.

Those states include the massive Uttar Pradesh, restive Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, which recently felt the brunt of Cyclone Fani.

5:47 a.m. ET, May 6, 2019

Modi visits cyclone-ravaged Odisha

Indian residents ride on a bike along a flooded road after Cyclone Fani landfall in Puri on May 3, 2019. 
Indian residents ride on a bike along a flooded road after Cyclone Fani landfall in Puri on May 3, 2019. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Odisha state to inspect the damage wrought by Cyclone Fani.

The state was hit by an “extremely severe cyclonic” storm Friday with more than 100 million people in its path.

Due to rapid evacuation of villages along the coastal region accompanied by door-to-door warnings and instruction by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the state was able to avoid a high death toll.

“Around 30 people have died due to the cyclone,” said Sanjeeb Panda, senior official with the Odisha police.

The casualties died due to wall or roof collapse or in some instances when a tree was uprooted and fell on them, he added. The state does not have a count for the number of injured yet as officials are still working to restore communications, electricity and infrastructure.

“The people Odisha have done a great job. They should be appreciated. The fishermen should be appreciated. It is because of them, there were fewer deaths. Otherwise we were scared as to what will happen,” said Modi in Odisha.

Modi also reiterated the monetary commitment of the federal government and announced that a total of $144 million will be given to the state along with man power and technology needed to rebuild.

The cyclone weakened as it moved up to West Bengal and later to Bangladesh where 2.1 million people were evacuated to thousands of shelters.

Four people died and 53 people were injured in Bangladesh due to the cyclone, said Enamur Rahman, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief in Bangladesh

5:49 a.m. ET, May 6, 2019

City at the center of bomb attack goes to the polls

Voters are casting their ballots in Pulwama district in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir -- the site of a car bomb attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries in February this year.

India claimed neighboring Pakistan had a “direct hand” in the February 14 bombing, and responded by sending fighter jets across the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that divides the disputed region between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan disputes India's version of events and denies any role in the bombing.

Polling in Pulwama comes just days after Gul Mohammad Mir, district vice-president of Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir, was shot dead by suspected militants.

Mir, 60, a member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, received bullet wounds to his chest and abdomen on Saturday. He was taken to the Anantnag district hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival, according to CNN affiliate News 18.

Neighboring Anantnag and Pulwama districts are two of six parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir state.

Security has been further tightened ahead of polling.

Earlier in the day, district officials confirmed that a blast-like sound was heard near a polling station in Pulwama. However, no damage or casualties were reported.

In Shopian district, also a part of Anantnag, a group attempted to set fire to a school where a polling station was set up but were stopped by security officials.

Voter turnout is expected to be low with numbers as of 1 p.m. local time at just 1.5% in Pulwama.

Read more on Kashmir here.