Voting began in the second phase of India's mammoth general elections, on Thursday April 18th, amid tight security and a lockdown in parts of the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, AP has reported.
More than 155 million people are eligible to cast their votes in the second phase, which covers 95 parliament constituencies in 12 states, including parts of restive Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmiri separatist leaders who challenge India's sovereignty over the disputed region have called for a boycott of the vote. Most polling stations in the Srinagar and Budgam areas of Kashmir looked deserted in the morning with more armed police, paramilitary soldiers and election staff present than voters.
Another focus will be on the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Here the main opposition Congress party and its allies need to win big if they hope to oust Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which secured a landslide majority in the previous general election in 2014.
"You can never expect you’ll do that again," said Neelanjan Sircar, an assistant professor at Ashoka University near the capital, New Delhi. "Those seats that you lose, you’ll have to make up somewhere."
The election began last week on April 11th. They will end next month on May 19th after a giant exercise involving hundreds of millions of eligible voters. Some 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill the 543 seats in India's lower house of Parliament "Lok Sabha". Votes will be counted on May 23rd and the results are expected the same day.