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Elections No Less Than A Festival in India: Polls Begin

Even though India continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the Modi-led government’s performance on the economy has come under criticism.

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Indians stand in queues to cast their votes at a polling booth for the first phase of general elections, near Ghaziabad, India, April 11, 2019. VOA

Polls opened Thursday in the first phase of India’s general elections, seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.

A festive spirit prevailed as men and women in colorful clothes made their way to heavily guarded voting stations in large numbers.

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South Korea States ‘Law Criminalizing Abortion Unconstitutional’, May Strike Down Abortion Ban. Pixabay

Voters in 18 Indian states and two Union Territories are casting ballots Thursday, the first day of a seven-phase election staggered over six weeks in the country of 1.3 billion people.

The election is the world’s largest democratic exercise. Modi supporters say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing. But critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions in India.

An Indian Lambada tribal woman shows the indelible ink mark on her index finger after casting her vote at a polling booth during the first phase of general elections in Hyderabad, India, April 11, 2019.
An Indian Lambada tribal woman shows the indelible ink mark on her index finger after casting her vote at a polling booth during the first phase of general elections in Hyderabad, India, April 11, 2019. VOA

Thursday’s voting is important for the BJP as it had won only 32 of 91 seats in the previous 2014 elections. It is seeking to improve its tally this time.

About 900 million people are eligible to cast ballots in about a million polling stations across India. They will decide 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament.

Voting concludes May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.

Modi came to power in 2014 and the party invoked its Hindu nationalist roots before the elections, with Modi at the forefront against the threat of Pakistan, India’s Muslim-majority archrival. Hindus comprise about 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people.

Also Read: South Korea States ‘Law Criminalizing Abortion Unconstitutional’, May Strike Down Abortion Ban

Even though India continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the Modi-led government’s performance on the economy has come under criticism.

The first item in the opposition Congress party’s election manifesto describes a plan for creating jobs. It also promises an income subsidy program for the poorest families and for farmers. (VOA)

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First Hindu Temple Lays Foundation Stone in Abu Dhabi

The temple will be built in phases with all the pink stones and marble being transported from Rajasthan to the UAE capital, the Khaleej Times said

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The temple is being built on 13.5 acres (55,000 square metres) of land gifted by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the Indian community. Wikimedia

The historic foundation stone-laying ceremony of the first traditional Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi was performed on Saturday in the presence of officials from India and the United Arab Emirates as well as thousands of members of the community.

The ceremony was presided over by Mahant Swami Maharaj — the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha — the organisation building the temple, along with other priests. Indian Ambassador Navdeep Suri attended the event in the presence of over 2,500 Indians from the UAE and across the world, according to Gulf News.

Suri and BAPS Hindu Mandir committee head and community leader B.R. Shetty were among those who laid foundation stones. Some 50 priests from India were part of the ceremony, the Khaleej Times reported.

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Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Wikimedia

UAE’s Minister of Climate Change Thani Al Zoyoudi and Ahmad Bilhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Sciences, were among the attendees.  The temple will be built in phases with all the pink stones and marble being transported from Rajasthan to the UAE capital, the Khaleej Times said.

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The stones of the temple will be hand-carved by artisans in India and then transported to Abu Dhabi. Once completed, this will be the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the Middle East.

The temple is being built on 13.5 acres (55,000 square metres) of land gifted by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the Indian community. (IANS)