Indian media celebrate world's biggest democratic event

India has 100 million first-time voters Image copyright Reuters
Image caption India has 100 million first-time voters

Media in India are celebrating the world's biggest democratic event as the nine-phase general election begins on Monday.

The nine-phase polls will end on 12 May, and votes will be counted on 16 May.

Some 814 million Indians are eligible to vote in a poll mainly contested between the ruling Congress party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In the first phase on Monday, polling is taking place in six constituencies in two states in the north-east - five in Assam and one in Tripura.

Most newspapers are running special pages dedicated to the elections.

The Times of India is carrying a special section titled "Dance of Democracy" to cover the polls.

"The... election starting today is being dubbed as an 'unprecedented' exercise, the like of which has not been seen before in 67 years of independent India," the paper says.

The Indian Express captures the excitement on its pages titled "Elections 2014: The Fever".

The Hindustan Times is urging the voter to have a say on its page titled "My India My Vote".

Image copyright Hindustan Times

The paper says the world is "watching" as Indians prepare to choose a new government.

"The big, fat Indian elections begin today and the world is watching - not without reason, though: There are 814 million registered voters - a figure that has increased by 100 million since 2009," the paper says.

Meanwhile, papers see the election as primarily a presidential-style contest between the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP is believed to hold an advantage against the ruling Congress which has been afflicted with many corruption allegations in recent years.

Image copyright The Indian Express

"The first Indians cast their votes in the world's biggest election on Monday with Hindu nationalist opposition candidate Narendra Modi seen holding a strong lead," the DNA newspaper says.

However, with 543 seats to fight for and several regional parties in the fray, poll results remain very difficult to predict.

India's lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, has 543 elected seats. Any party or coalition needs a minimum of 272 MPs to form a majority government.

BJP-TDP alliance

Meanwhile, reports say the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in southern India has joined the BJP-led coalition.

The two parties will support each other to try and win maximum seats in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states.

"As per the seat-sharing arrangement arrived between BJP and TDP, the BJP will contest five Lok Sabha seats and 15 assembly seats in Seemandhra (Andhra Pradesh) and eight Lok Sabha seats and 47 assembly segments in Telangana," The Times of India reports.

The NDTV website says "the partnership…could propel the Modi-led BJP closer to the 272 seats it needs to form the next national government".

Votes will be cast for Telangana's 17 seats on 30 April, and Andhra Pradesh's 25 constituencies will go into polls on 7 May.

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