Indian election 2014: Campaign turns bitter as India goes to the polls in massive general election

People in parts of the north-eastern states of Assam and Tripura went and cast their ballots in the first of nine days that have been set aside for voting

Agartala

India today embarked on the start of a massive, month-long series of polls after the leaders of the two main parties heaped further attacks on one another.

People in parts of the north-eastern states of Assam and Tripura went and cast their ballots in the first of nine days that have been set aside for voting by election officials.

Among the very first to vote in the quiet town of Argatala, state capital of Tripura, were Putul Dass, 71, and her husband, 78-year-old Mohanda. At a polling station at the Bijay Kumar secondary school Mrs Dass was first in the women's line while her husband was second to vote among the men.

"The idea was to get here early and to get it done. Then you can spend the rest of the day like a holiday," said Mrs Dass, displaying a purple ink mark on her thumb.

She declined to say which party she had voted for, but said the most important issues for her when casting her vote were dealing with corruption and addressing inflation.

Tripura is one of the final bastions of the Left in India and the state government is controlled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)). Mr Dass also declined to say who he had voted for but suggested he had at least some sympathy for the CPI(M). "There is no corruption at the state level - it's in the central government," he said.

In the run-up to voting, India's election campaign has become increasingly bitter, with rival candidates seeking to land verbal blows on one another.

Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and face of the ruling Congress party's campaign, accused the main opposition party of "double standards" over corruption and of trying to divide India along communal lines.

Meanwhile, Narendra Modi, the candidate of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accused Sonia Gandhi, Mr Gandhi's mother and head of the Congress party, of indulging in vote-bank politics and of misleading India's Muslims.

The rules governing India's elections put in place a so-called "Model Code" to which all parties and politicians are supposed to adhere. It says that while a candidate can criticise the policies of another candidate, they are not get involved in personal attacks.

India's election season got underway with much high-minded talk of sticking to such rules. But, in an echo of elections in many other parts of the world, as polling dates have become nearer, the campaign rhetoric has become increasingly jagged and personal.

A Congress party candidate was arrested after saying he wanted to chop Mr Modi into pieces, while a BJP leader said he wanted to strip Mrs Gandhi and her son and "send them back to Italy." Meanwhile, over the weekend, police filed charges against a senior aide of Mr Modi after he was accused of telling voters in an area that had seen clashes between groups from different religions, that the election was about getting "revenge".

Many polls suggest Mr Modi, who remains scarred by the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister, has a wave of support that could see him dislodge the Congress, which has held the last two terms of government.

Mr Modi's polished and professional campaign has projected him as the only person capable of kickstarting India's development and of tackling corruption. On Monday, his party again stressed such issues when, after much delay, it released its manifesto.

"We have chalked out a plan to improve the economic situation in the country in the manifesto," said BJP politician Murli Manohar Joshi. "We need to build a Brand India."

Earlier, at a rally in the state of Haryana, Mr Gandhi had accused the BJP of double standards when it came to corruption.

"[The BJP leaders] go to the state of Karnataka and give big speeches there. They bring BS Yeddyurappa, who was the Karnataka Chief Minister and has been in jail, on to the stage and then say they are against corruption," he said. "Then they go to Chhatisgarh where mining mafia rules and say we are against corruption."

Meanwhile, in a speech in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Mr Modi accused Mrs Gandhi and one of her coalition partners of playing vote bank politics.

"They talk of secularism but their politics is all about keeping all classes poor through their politics," he said, according the Press Trust of India news agency. "They can neither provide development nor security to the people and they have no right to be in power even for a second."

Kanchan Gupta, a senior journalist and an adviser to Mr Modi, said he expected the language of the campaign trail would become "saucier" as the month of voting got underway.

"At this point, nobody really has a new point to make and you cannot keep on repeating the old points," he said. "Now is is about addressing the voting classes and the voting classes get very bored with the serious stuff."

At a national level, the campaign has been dominated by the issue of development and tackling corruption. In Tripura, the creation of jobs, especially for young people and those not associated the CPI(M), is an important local issue.

"For the younger generation, the jobs situation is very bad," said Subhankar Karmakar, a 21-year-old student who was walking in a park in Agartala on Sunday evening. "There are jobs, but they are not available to everyone."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum