India elections start amid violence, hate speech accusations

Narendra Modi seeks a third term while critics worry about the future of the country's democracy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets supporters at a roadshow on April 06, 2024 in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
India's election process, lasting 82 days, will be held in seven phases, covering the entire country from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, with an estimated 15 million polling staff and security personnel.
(Image credit: Elke Scholiers / Getty Images)

It's not Election Day in India — rather, it's more like Election Weeks. Plural. Voters in "the world's largest democratic election" started heading to the polls last Friday, CNBC said, to start the first of seven phases of voting that will play out over six weeks. There probably aren't many surprises in store at the end of that marathon: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are expected to win "another landslide victory" that would give Modi a third five-year term in office.

That doesn't mean the campaign has been placid. "Armed men attacked polling stations and captured voting booths" in the state of Manipur, The New York Times said, forcing authorities to redo early voting there. Modi himself received accusations that he had committed "hate speech" late in the campaign, CNN said, after he told a Hindu audience that Muslim opponents give "your hard-earned money" to "infiltrators." And all that came after the election was plagued with AI-generated deepfake videos of Bollywood actors criticizing Modi. 

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Joel Mathis, The Week US

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who has spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His work also regularly appears in National Geographic, The Kansas City Star and Heatmap News. His awards include best online commentary at the Online News Association and (twice) at the City and Regional Magazine Association.