The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) announced the candidature of a woman accused in a terror case to one of its most coveted seats in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
This is the first time a political party has nominated someone who has been accused of terror activities, signaling a shift in the political rhetoric of the Hindu nationalist BJP.
Pragya Thakur is suspected of orchestrating the bomb blast that took six lives and injured 101 people in Malegaon in 2008. She is currently out on bail and is also running in the parliamentary elections on a BJP ticket.
The bomb blast took place in the city of Malegaon in Maharashtra when an improvised explosive device hidden in a motorcycle was detonated in a predominantly Muslim area.
Thakur, who is also known as Sadhvi Pragya, was arrested along with 11 other accused and charged by the Anti-Terror Squad for murder, terrorism, arms possession among other charges.
The BJP state unit tweeted its support for Thakur. “These elections will now be a battle of religious ideologies. On one side is a man who has labelled Hindus as terrorists and on the other side is the true follower of Hindu religion, Sadhvi Pragya,” said the statement.
BJP’s move to induct Thakur into its cadre has received criticism from all sides. She is being challenged by Digvijay Singh, a veteran politician with the Congress party.
The National Investigation Agency dropped the charges it had filed against her though Thakur is still to face trial under other charges.
“I have been given a clean chit. Whatever conspiracies were hatched against me, they have failed,” said Thakur to reporters Wednesday.
Bhopal has elected leaders from the BJP since the late 80s and is considered one of the safest seats in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
However, after the rout BJP faced last year in the state elections, local administration is working hard to not allow Congress to gain momentum in the national elections as well.
“Winter is here" and so are the Indian elections. The Election Commission of India is using HBO’s hit TV series “Game of Thrones” to urge people to come out and vote during the second phase of the poll.
EC is asking voters to use the hashtag #GotInked and take a selfie with their indelible-ink stained finger.
A few days ago Congress, the main opposition party, used a GOT reference to mock the rival Prime Minister and his Bharatiya Janata Party.
Puducherry, an administrative territory on India's southeast coast, is heading to polls today.
Known as a union territory, Puducherry is one of seven across India. But it's only one of two -- including New Delhi -- that has been provided a special status and can elect its own legislative assembly.
However, all of its administration is largely controlled by the federal government.
Puducherry, formerly known as Pondicherry, is a former French exclave. It was formed out of the four former colonies of French India in 1962.
The region provides one seat to the Indian Parliament and has a population of over 250,000.
In the general elections held in 2014, the territory had set up over 900 polling stations and 740,000 votes were cast.
The other six union territories are western Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chandigarh -- capital of the northern states of Punjab and Haryana -- NCT Delhi, the tropical archipelago of Lakshadweep, and the Andman and Nicobar Islands far out in the Andaman Sea.
Key election battleground Uttar Pradesh (UP) posted an average 38.94% voter turnout for the state as of 1 p.m.
Eight seats are up for grabs in UP today, though the state accounts for 80 seats in the Lok Sabha.
UP is where Indian elections are won and lost.
At 200 million, it is India's most populous state, and if it were a country it would be the fifth largest on the planet. Due to the state's size, voting is spread across all seven stages.
Senior citizens were among those traveling to polling stations to cast their ballot across the country today ...
--- and among some of the more seasoned voters were centenarians.
100-year-old Wangkheimayum Bhanu came out to vote in Manipur state.
108-year-old Dharam Singh cast his vote in the town of Thathri, in Jammu and Kashmir's Doda district, according to state broadcaster DD News.
And Vaman Bhairav Pande, who's 102, cast his vote in Maharashtra state.
Polling stations in Odisha were manned with volunteers ready to lend a helping hand.
In northern Uttar Pradesh, two actors turned politicians are battling it out. The BJP’s Hema Malini, who in her heyday was known as Bollywood’s “dreamgirl,” is seeking re-election in Mathura.
In Fatehpur Sikri, just west of Agra, former actor and president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, Raj Babbar is contesting. Babbar is a three-time member of the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, and a two-time member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house.
In southern Karnataka state, the BJP’s DV Sadananda Gowda, also a former chief minister and current Minister of Statistics and Program Implementation, is looking to hold onto his constituency of Bangalore North.
Other prominent faces contesting in Karnataka include senior Congress leader and former chief minister Veerappa Moily for the seat of Chikballapur. A minister in the previous Congress-led government, Moily has headed the ministries of Law and Justice, Power, Petroleum and Gas, and Environment and Forests.
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda of the center-left Janata Dal (Secular) party is contesting from Hassan.
HD Deve Gowda served as India’s 11th prime minister, when, during the 1996 elections a hung parliament resulted in neither the BJP or Congress being able to secure more than 272 seats required to form a government.
An alliance called the United Front, formed of parties aligned with neither Congress nor the BJP, was able to muster 332 seats with Gowda chosen to head the government. Gowda held the post from June 1, 1996 until April 11 the following year.
As voting gets well underway across the 11 states, here's a look at some of the most prominent candidates contesting.
In northern Jammu and Kashmir state’s Udhampur district, the main opposition Congress party is fielding Vikramaditya Singh, grandson of Hari Singh, the last Maharaja (ruler) of Jammu and Kashmir. His main opponent is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Jitendra Singh.
As voters continue to cast their ballots across several Indian states, the young and old are taking part in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.
From western Maharashtra, which holds significant influence with its 48 seats, to union territory Puducherry, which accounts for just one seat, throngs of voters lined up to cast their votes.