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Explained | What are the key issues this election?

Here are some of the key issues in the elections to 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, that will be held in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, with vote counting on June 4.
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 10:10 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 10:10 IST

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New Delhi: Nearly 1 billion Indians will be eligible to vote in the world's biggest election starting this month. Opinion polls predict an easy win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which would give him a record-equalling third straight term.

Here are some of the key issues in the elections to 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, that will be held in seven phases between April 19 and June 1, with vote counting on June 4.

Economic development, inflation

India's economy is expected to have grown by about 8% in the last fiscal year ended March 31, the fastest among major countries.

In the past decade under Modi, the Indian economy has jumped five places to the fifth position in the world and he has "guaranteed" to lift it to third position should he win the election. One of the highlights of the Modi era has been gleaming roads and bridges across the country, including in and around New Delhi and Mumbai.

Fruits of the booming economy, however, are more visible in the cities than in the vast countryside. A sharp price rise has also been a concern.

Retail inflation in 2022/23 accelerated to 6.7% from 5.5% in 2021/22, and 6.2% the year ago. Annual retail inflation was 5.09% in February.

Welfare policies

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has been giving free food rations to 814 million of India's 1.42 billion people. Some critics have said the fact that the government feels the need to support nearly 60% of India's population with free cereal is a sign of uneven economic growth in the country.

By the end of last year, India's richest citizens owned 40.1% of its wealth, the highest since 1961, and their share of total income was 22.6%, the most since 1922, according to a study by research group the World Inequality Lab.

Modi and the BJP have also tried to win over women voters by focusing on their welfare, including through cash handouts and domestic benefits such as piped water, 24/7 electricity and cooking gas connections.

Hindutva

Modi in January led the consecration of a grand temple in Ayodhya. A Hindu mob in 1992 pulled down a 16th-century mosque on the site, which many Hindus believe was built over a demolished temple under the Mughal ruler Babur.

The prime minister's regular visits to Hindu temples across the country are widely broadcast on news channels, which political analysts say helps his image of being the champion of the majority community that forms the BJP's core support base.

At the same time, many Muslims have accused the government of effecting policies going against the community's interest. The BJP says it works for all but appeases none, in a dig at opposition parties that have traditionally won the support of Muslims.

Modi's government has ended support for Muslim schools, or madrasas, and some BJP states have either closed many of them or are on the verge of doing so, despite opposition from Muslim leaders.

Modi has also implemented a citizenship law that has been criticised as discriminating against Muslims, granting nationality to Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who fled to India due to religious persecution from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before Dec. 31, 2014.

Corruption

A government agency that investigates suspected money laundering has summoned, questioned, raided or arrested nearly 150 opposition politicians in the past decade. In the same period, it has investigated only about half a dozen ruling party politicians.

The highest profile arrest has been that of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who denies any corruption. Modi says agencies are free to investigate anyone as per his "zero-tolerance" policy on corruption.

Opposition politicians have accused Modi of misusing government agencies to target them for political gains. The Congress, meanwhile, is battling tax demands, which it has called an attempt to cripple it before the vote.

Unemployment

Modi first came to power in 2014 partly on the promise of creating tens of millions of jobs for the country's youth but has largely failed to deliver.

The unemployment rate rose to 8% in February, according to the privately held Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. According to government estimates, the unemployment rate rose to 5.4% in the fiscal year ended March 2023, from 4.9% in 2013/14 before Modi took over.

Nearly 16% of urban youth in the 15-29 age group remained unemployed in 2022/23 due to poor skills and lack of quality jobs, government data shows. Estimates by private agencies are much higher.

Agriculture

The BJP had promised to double farm income by 2022 in its manifesto for the last election, but there is no sign of that.

Protesting farmers, especially from Punjab, forced Modi in 2021 to roll back three farm reform laws, a rare policy reversal by him. This year, the farmers hit the streets again demanding higher guaranteed prices for their produce, though the protests fizzled out within weeks.

Global stature

The BJP often highlights India's rising global stature, backed by its economy, as a key achievement of Modi, especially after hosting the G20 summit last year and successfully evacuating its citizens stuck in Ukraine after Russia's attack.

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Published 15 April 2024, 10:10 IST

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