(AsiaNews ) - Today the first phase of the general elections begins in India,
considered by many analysts to the most important and contested of the past 20
first to the polls are the 7.6 million registered voters in Assam and Tripura,
the northeastern states of the country. In
the first two hours of voting - which started at 7 this morning (local time) -
the polling stations have already registered a record turnout of 12%.
Assam has five constituencies - Tezpur , Jorhat , Kaliabor , Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur - while there is only one in Tripura, Tripura West . In both states the local community has 8,588 polling stations, and will have to choose among 51 candidates running for a seat in the Lok Sabha ( "House of the People"), the lower house of parliament .
The Indian Constitution provides for a maximum of 552 Lok Sabha members; of these, 530 represent the population of the States, 20 the population of the Territories of the Union, 2 may be appointed by the President of the country on behalf of the Anglo-Indian community. Each elected member represents a single geographic constituency.
The two northeastern states are mostly dependent on agriculture. The area is famous for the cultivation of tea, and Assam's produce is considered among the finest in the world. The population is mostly tribal and have long denounced an excessive increase in the prices of basic goods and of having been "forgotten" by the central government, because they are far from New Delhi. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the opposition) are hoping to leverage on this discontent to win in the area, but it has always been a stronghold of the Congress party, currently in government.
After that today, the elections will be divided into eight more stages: April 9, 10 , 12, 17 , 24 and 30; May7:12. Some states will vote in more than one day, depending on the number of divisions. The counting of votes will take place on a single day - May 16 - and the new parliament will be constituted by May 31.
In addition to being the most contested in recent years - as seen in the bitter clash between Congress, BJP and the new anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) - this year's elections are the biggest. There are 814 million registered voters - 100 million more than in 2009 - and 930 thousand polling stations, compared to 830 thousand in 2009. In each of these will use electronic voting machines, which for the first time in the history of India, will give voters the "None of above" option.