In what will be the world’s biggest democratic event in history, India will take to the polls across six weeks to elect members of parliament and a prime minister. There are more than 900 million eligible voters in the elections, and with tensions high around several key issues, the race has become tighter than anticipated. Seeking re-election is current prime minister Narendra Modi, whilst opposition comes in the form of Rahul Gandhi.
Why seven stages?
There are seven stages of voting spread out across six weeks. These fall on April 11, April 18, April 23, April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19.
The reason for the seven days of voting is so that security forces across India can ensure a free and fair election.
There are around a million polling stations across the country, with the seven days to make sure security is not spread too thin.
Voters are electing members of parliament, and the role of prime minister will be granted to the leader of the party or coalition with the most seats.
When will results be announced?
After the last round of voting on May 19, the votes will be counted on May 23 with results to be announced soon after.
Currently, opinion polls predict Mr Modi and his BJP party being re-elected for another term, but the margin is tight.
Mr Modi’s popularity faced a dip following anger at lack of jobs and weak farming incomes.
In December, the prime minister lost three key states to the opposition and their allies, led by Rahul Gandhi.
However, his tough stance on the conflict between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir in February saw some voters regain confidence in their leader.
What are the key issues?
Voters are unhappy with the lack of jobs and weak incomes for farmers despite Mr Modi’s pledge to turn India into an economic and military power.
His government’s inability to create a million jobs every month and the low product prices which impact farmers have dinted what is still the world’s fastest growing economy.
In northern Utter Pradesh, sugar farmers are going unpaid for produce, and small businesses in the south have shut due to their inability to meet the requirements of a new, unifying national tax.
These issues have caused discontent among many. Author Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay said: “The election has become a lot closer than we think, sitting in Delhi.
“There is anger and disillusionment in the countryside.”