India elections 2014: Massive turnout expected on last day of election as Narenda Modi makes final push for votes

Asia Correspondent

India’s long, hot and increasingly bad-tempered election campaign began its final day of voting today with the two main candidates still claiming each had done enough to win. Their claims may be tested later today when the first exit polls are published.

Around 66 million people are registered to vote in 41 constituencies across three large states on the ninth and final day of voting. Up until this point, turn-out has been at more than 66 per cent - an all-time high.

Among the contests being decided today is the constituency of Varanasi, an ancient city on the Ganges river that is sacred to Hindus and one of two seats from where presumed front-runner Narendra Modi is competing. He is being directly challenged in Varanasi by 41 other candidates, perhaps most forcefully by Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of a new, grass-roots party that has campaigned against corruption.

Mr Modi, of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is generally reckoned to have seized the momentum during the many months of campaigning across India. During his campaign, he repeatedly has pushed the message of development and jobs, even while some of his BJP colleagues continued to stir communal tension.

By contrast, the ruling Congress party, whose rather lacklustre campaign was headed by Rahul Gandhi, is expected to do badly. After ten years in power, the most recent of them seen as drifting an ineffectual, the party appears to be facing a widespread sentiment of anti-incumbency

The result of election is due to be announced on Friday. Indian elections are notoriously difficult to predict and in 2004 in particular, most pundits called the outcome incorrectly.

Yet exit polls that can be tonight be published after polling ends could give some indication as to whether or not there is evidence of the “Modi wave” that he and his supporters claim has gripped India.

In a video message posted on social media on Monday, Mr Modi, 63, said: “Today is the last day of elections, the 9th phase. Despite the harsh heat, the people of the country are fighting to ensure that democracy wins. Women and youth have voted enthusiastically.”

Observers say the election was particularly hard fought. Mr Modi and Mr Gandhi often trader personal barbs. The BJP leader contrasted Mr Modi’s privileged upbringing as part of the Nehru-Gandhi family, with his own relatively impoverished background in small-town Gujarat.

Meanwhile. Mr Gandhi claimed Mr Modi, long tarnished over the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat while he was chief minister, will destroy the secular foundation of India.

Over the weekend, the Congress and the BJP traded final attacks ahead of the last day of polling. At a rally in Varanasi, Mr Gandhi claimed Mr Modi’s speeches were full of anger. He added: “But India works on love and not on anger India is for everybody. It is for Hindus, Muslims, Sikh and Christians. It belongs to every caste and community, poor and rich people and it will remain for everybody.”

The BJP complained that Mr Modi had been prevented by election officials from holding a major rally in the city ahead of polling. “Why was the Rahul roadshow permitted when Modi was denied permission in the same area,” said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Central London - £45,000-£55,000 + bonus

£45000 - £55000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: The focus of this is to deve...

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape