04/11/2019, 10.08
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The Indian electoral marathon begins: queues, dalits rejected at the polling stations, appeals from the Church

The polls will remain open from 7am to 6pm. The final results will be announced on May 23rd. There are long queues and malfunctions of the electronic voting system. The Telegu Federation of Churches invites to vote for candidates who work in favor of adivasis, tribals and Dalits.

New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The first phase of the long Indian electoral marathon, which will last for 39 days until 19 May, began at 7 am (local time). The numbers are impressive: with around 900 million voters, thousands of seats across the country, 10,000 candidates representing over 500 parties vying for the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, this is the largest election in history.

In general, the polling stations will remain open until 6 pm today, with some exceptions at a local level. The final results will be announced on May 23rd. The winner will be the party or coalition that obtains 272 seats. At the moment voting  is underway in various states: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh. Uttarakhand, West Bengal, the islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep. The vote is so complicated and some circumscriptions are so populous that different states will go to the polls on several dates, such as Uttar Pradesh, which alone has 204 million inhabitants.

Meanwhile, the first problems are emerging at polling stations, with long queues and a malfunction of the electronic voting system. In the State of Assam, the polls were opened an hour earlier to dispose of the flow of voters. In this state the Catholic Church has worked hard to push voters to go to the polls. The Diocese of Miao celebrated the Chrism Mass with a special prayer for the electoral round. Today Bishop George Pallipparambil – according to its Twitter account - was the first to vote in the seat of Miao KV Booth.

There are also some episodes that confirm the heavy climate of social and caste discrimination of the electoral campaign. Reports from Kairana, in the district of Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh), tell that a Dalit man was rejected at the polling station by an Electoral Commission official. "I feel humiliated," he told reporters outside the hotel.

Precisely in order to avoid similar degrading episodes for individuals, yesterday the Telegu Federation of Churches (which brings together Catholic and Protestant churches and bishops in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) invited Christians to vote for secular leaders. The pastoral letter was signed by Msgr. T Raja Rao and Msgr. Prasada Rao, general secretaries of the organization, and by Fr. Anthoniraj Thumma, executive secretary. "We must ensure - they affirm - that candidates are chosen who support democratic institutions and safeguard secularity [of the State]". "We vote for those who work for adivasis, tribals and dalits", is their appeal.

Among the many forecasts, the consensus growth of Rahul Gandhi, president of the Congress Party (center-left), which has launched an ambitious project: a minimum income for all citizens. For his part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (of the Hindu nationalist right), is promising a welfare system for poor farmers, the most impoverished class in Indian society, and improved representation for women.

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