The world's biggest election

The world's biggest election

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India is more than halfway through the globe’s biggest ever election, with 815 million people being called to cast their ballots during nine stages of voting spread over five weeks.

The polls pit Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime-ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party, against the ruling Congress and regional parties. Voting runs until May 12 and results are due on May 16.

. AMROHA, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

India's registered voters number more than the entire population of Europe, and a quarter of them were called to the polls on April 17, the biggest day of the country's staggered election.

. MAVAL, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Voting took place in 120 constituencies across 12 states, in areas ranging from Himalayan passes to a southern IT hub and western sugarcane farms.

Election materials were airlifted to parts of the fractious Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir, while mobile polling stations in vans were used in the deserts of Rajasthan.

. CHENNAI, India. REUTERS/Babu

During the election period, the ruling Congress party has been struggling to hold ground against the Hindu nationalist opposition.

Narendra Modi, the opposition BJP prime ministerial candidate whose face is shown in the mask above, has been wooing voters with promises to rouse India's economy from its slowest growth in a decade and create jobs for its booming young population.

He is a divisive figure, however, with critics accusing him of not doing enough to protect Muslims in a 2002 outbreak of religious violence in the western state of Gujarat, where he is chief minister. The riots left at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.

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Slideshow

A supporter of BJP candidate Narendra Modi peeps out from backstage as Modi leaves after addressing a rally in Gurgaon.
. GURGAON, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A supporter of BJP candidate Narendra Modi peeps out from backstage as Modi leaves after addressing a rally in Gurgaon.

Modi supporters hold up the BJP's symbol during a campaign rally.
. CHENNAI, India. REUTERS/Babu

Modi supporters hold up the BJP's symbol during a campaign rally.

Modi waves to his supporters as he arrives to file nomination papers for the general elections in Vadodara.
. VADODARA, India. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Modi waves to his supporters as he arrives to file nomination papers for the general elections in Vadodara.

Rahul Gandhi (in white), vice president of India's ruling Congress party, and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are showered with rose petals by their supporters.
. AMETHI, India. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Rahul Gandhi (in white), vice president of India's ruling Congress party, and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are showered with rose petals by their supporters.

Gaurav Sharma, an independent candidate also known as the Indian Spider-Man, hands out a pamphlet at a residential building
. MUMBAI, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Gaurav Sharma, an independent candidate also known as the Indian Spider-Man, hands out a pamphlet at a residential building

Election officials carry electronic voting machines on their way to polling stations ahead of the fifth phase of the ballot.
. ASSAR, India. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta

Election officials carry electronic voting machines on their way to polling stations ahead of the fifth phase of the ballot.

Police patrol near a polling station in Parla village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
. PARLA, India. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

Police patrol near a polling station in Parla village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Supporters of Kashmir's ruling National Conference (NC) party listen as Farooq Abdullah, President of NC, addresses them after filing his nomination as a candidate in the general election.
. SRINAGAR, India. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

Supporters of Kashmir's ruling National Conference (NC) party listen as Farooq Abdullah, President of NC, addresses them after filing his nomination as a candidate in the general election.

Women wait to cast their vote at a polling station in Sirohi district, in the desert state of Rajasthan.
. SIROHI, India. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Women wait to cast their vote at a polling station in Sirohi district, in the desert state of Rajasthan.

A girl looks on as her mother signs before casting her ballot.
. MAVAL, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

A girl looks on as her mother signs before casting her ballot.

An election official pastes a hologram on a voter identification card in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.
. AHMEDABAD, India. REUTERS/Amit Dave

An election official pastes a hologram on a voter identification card in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

A man arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in Kaane, in the western state of Maharashtra.
. MAVAL, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

A man arrives to cast his vote at a polling station in Kaane, in the western state of Maharashtra.

A woman holds her child as she votes.
. JAMMU, India. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta

A woman holds her child as she votes.

A veiled Muslim woman leaves after casting her ballot.
. AMROHA, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A veiled Muslim woman leaves after casting her ballot.

An Indian tribal woman shows her ink-stained finger after she voted at a polling station in Dhalai district, in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura.
. DHALAI, India. REUTERS/Utpal Baruah

An Indian tribal woman shows her ink-stained finger after she voted at a polling station in Dhalai district, in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura.

Women walk through a wheat field on their way to vote.
. AMROHA, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Women walk through a wheat field on their way to vote.

Muslim women, displaced by deadly religious strife last year, walk back to their relief camp after casting their ballot in Palra village.
. MUZAFFARNAGAR, India. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

Muslim women, displaced by deadly religious strife last year, walk back to their relief camp after casting their ballot in Palra village.

Village elders chat outside a polling station after voting in Ajmer district, in the desert state of Rajasthan.
. AJMER, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Village elders chat outside a polling station after voting in Ajmer district, in the desert state of Rajasthan.

An election official reads a newspaper as a voter exits a polling station.
. MAVAL, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

An election official reads a newspaper as a voter exits a polling station.

A woman leaves after casting her vote in Ajmer district of Rajasthan.
. AJMER, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

A woman leaves after casting her vote in Ajmer district of Rajasthan.

Other women cast their ballots.
. AJMER, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Other women cast their ballots.

An elderly woman votes.
. AJMER, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

An elderly woman votes.

A woman shows her ink-stained finger after voting in the village of Kamshet, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
. MAVAL, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

A woman shows her ink-stained finger after voting in the village of Kamshet, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.