Indians are voting in the seventh and final national elections, wrapping up a six-week-long campaign season with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeking re-election for another five years.  Nearly 100 million people are entitled to vote on Sunday in 59 constituencies across seven states – including the politically-critical Uttar Pradesh in the north and West Bengal in the east.
Sunday's voting also covers Modi's constituency of Varanasi, a temple town where he was elected in 2014. He spent Saturday night at Kedarnath, a temple of Hindu god Shiva nestled in the Himalayas in northern India.
Counting of votes is scheduled for May 23.
referendum on Modi's five-year rule. He has a nationalist pitch in trying to win the country's Hindu majority by projecting a tough stance against Pakistan, India's Muslim-majority neighbor and archrival.
Modi has played the threat of Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on February 1
Voter turnout recorded at 9 am: Bihar-10.65%, Himachal Pradesh- 0.87%, Madhya Pradesh-7.16%, Punjab-4.64%, Uttar Pradesh-5.97%, West Bengal 10.54, Jharkhand-13.19%, Chandigarh-10.40% in # Phase7 or # LokSabhaElections2019 pic.twitter.com/wG1XvkYS3m
– ANI (@ANI) ] May 19, 2019
Reporting from Varanasi, Al Jazeera's Sohail Rahman said while the BJP stressed on national security as its main poll agenda, the opposition attempted to corner him by focusing on issues of development.
"Discourse certainly changed after Pulwama attacks and national security became the i ssue. However, people and experts say that I have talked to actual issues have come out, issues like health, education, sanitation and infrastructure, which the opposition used to target the government. "
" The incumbent BJP government has been very reluctant to talk about what they have achieved in the last five years, "he said.
The Congress and other opposition parties are challenging at a high unemployment rate of 6.1 percent and farmers' distress aggravated at low crop prices.
Some of the modest policy steps, such as the demo of high currency notes to black market and bring a large number of people into tax, to be economically damaging.
A haphazard implementation of "one nation, one tax "- The Goods and Services Tax – also hit small and medium businesses.
Voter turnout in the first six rounds was approximately 66 percent, the Election Commission said, up from 58 percent in the last national vote in 2014.
The election has taken place in a charged atmosphere as Modi's BJP sought a second term by pushing policies that some say have increased religious tensions and undermined multiculturalism.
The campaigning has been marred by accusations and insults, as well as the Unprecedented use of social media
|Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal State and Chief of Trinamool Congress (TMC), at a road show ahead of the last phase of general election in Kolkata [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]|
Voting has largely been peaceful but For sporadic violence in the eastern state of West Bengal, where the BJP is trying to wrest seats from Trinamool Congress, a powerful regional party that is currently governing the state.
Early in West Bengal on Thursday after days of clashes in the final stretch of the election.
Pre-election polls by the media indicate that no party is likely to win ything close to a majority in parliament with 543 seats. The BJP, which won a majority of 282 seats in 2014, may need some regional parties as allies to stay in power.
A Congress-led government will require a major electoral upset.
Al Jazeera and news agencies