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Surge in voter turnout in Indian polls

NEW DELHI: Turnout in India’s multi-phase election is so far almost eight percentage points higher than last time, data showed Wednesday, reflecting enthusiasm for polls expected to bring the opposition Hindu nationalists to power.
Polling in five of the ten phases has been completed, with the biggest day of voting set for Thursday. The last ballots will be cast on May 12 and final counting is scheduled for May 16.
“The aggregation of figures from these 111 seats gives a 2014 polling percentage of 68.29, almost 8.0 percentage points higher from 60.39 percent for the same seats in 2009,” Akshay Rout, director general of the national election commission, told reporters.
The number of ballots cast in these seats has increased by 28.8 percent between 2009 and 2014.
The electoral rolls have swelled by 100 million since 2009 due to India’s growing population.
Officials attributed the significant surge in voter turnout to a variety of factors, including increased awareness about the election.
“One reason could be a significant increase in polling hours, which are almost 11 hours at several places. Besides, we have also carried out massive publicity and awareness campaign, particularly targeting the youth across the country,” Rout said.
Another reason could be an increase in the number of women voters and strong anti-incumbency sentiment in the country, which returned the Congress party to power in 2009 for a second term.
Most opinion polls in the last few months have predicted a rout for the left-leaning ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi.
The polls predict that an alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by hard-liner Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, will form India’s next national government.
A total of 814 million adults are eligible to vote in the ongoing elections.