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Special report

India votes: Millions head to polls in election seen as referendum on PM Modi (Part 1)

France 24 screen grab

Tens of millions of Indians joined queues nationwide on Thursday to vote in the world's largest election, choosing representatives for India's parliament and issuing a verdict on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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The 17th Indian general election has begun, and it promises to be the largest democratic exercise the world has ever seen. The country's voters will cast ballots to choose their next representatives in the Indian parliament an exercise that will eventually determine whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be re-elected.

India's marathon vote will take place in seven stages, with more than 140 million people across 20 states and territories eligible to vote in the first phase.

When Modi, 68, came to power in 2014 he promised to develop the Indian economy. But the opposition Indian National Congress party says his promises have fallen flat. Opposition members hope their criticisms of the prime minister for cronyism, a faltering economy, persistent rural poverty and high unemployment will oust him from his post.

Polls indicate Modi remains the favourite, but he is fending off a challenge from Rahul Gandhi, 48, of the country’s famed Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Votes are being cast today for 91 of the 543 elected seats in parliament. The seventh and final phase of the election will end on May 21.

Click on the video player above to watch the first of FRANCE 24’s seven special weekly programmes covering the marathon election.

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