84 million first time voters. The next election date is April 18 (Holy Thursday). Episodes of violence at the polling stations; Maoists cause two attacks. The radical "secret" faction of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh launches door to door search for votes.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "I hope that my vote will serve to elect good leaders who will guide the state and the nation towards peace and prosperity". This was stated by 18-year-old Namwom Wanglee who yesterday went to the polls for the first time in her life. She lined up like so many others in the Miao constituency, in Arunachal Pradesh, showed her electoral card to the polling station officers, then headed to the booth and registered her vote on the electronic system. "Today is a special day for me - she says - I is difficult to express in words the emotion of being able to exercise what I have so far only learned about in books".
Like Namwom, another 84 million young people will express the right to vote throughout India until May 19. In total, 900 million citizens are called to the polls. Of these, 140 million were expected yesterday, with the opening of the long phase of general elections that will last for 39 days. The second date is April 18, which falls on the Christian holy day of Holy Thursday.
The first date saw voting in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal. In some of these - including Arunachal Pradesh - the vote ended yesterday; in others, given the greater population and the size of the territory, voting will continue in the coming weeks.
Among those who voted yesterday, the highest turnout was registered in the State of West Bengal, where 80.9% of those entitled went to the polls; the lowest in Bihar, with 50.3% of eligible voters casting their ballots.
On the first date throughout the territory there were long queues at the polling stations and thousands of complaints were submitted for the malfunctioning of the electronic voting system. There was no shortage of violence: a member of the Telugu Desam Party was killed and a party candidate Jana Sena (Hindu nationalist) arrested for destroying an electronic machine after an argument with an Electoral Commission official.
Finally in the district of Narayanpur, in Chhattisgarh, two bombs exploded. The Maoist Communist Party of India was responsible for the explosions. One of the bombers died in the detonation and a policeman was wounded.
According to media reports, this atmosphere of hatred is being fomented by a large "secret" group of volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Rss), the Hindu para-military and ultranationalist wing of which the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the Bharatiya governing party. The faction, composed exclusively of males, has about four million members. Ahead of the elections, activists have spread propaganda all over the country, with door to door canvassing in search of votes.
Their electoral platform is the defense of Hinduism from "foreign" religions: against the Muslims, they want the construction of the temple dedicated to the god Ram in Ayodhya, where a mosque has stood since 1528, and the revision of the special agreements with Kashmir (with an Islamic majority); against Christians, they are pushing for the nationalization of minority schools and the banishment of missionaries.
(Photo credit picture 1: Miao Diocese)