India election 2019: Latest updates

2:20 a.m. ET, March 14, 2019

China blocks bid to list JeM chief a "global terrorist"

Indian Muslims hold a scratched photo of Jaish-e-Mohammad group chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, during a protest in Mumbai on February 15, 2019, the day after an attack on a paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Kashmir.
Indian Muslims hold a scratched photo of Jaish-e-Mohammad group chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, during a protest in Mumbai on February 15, 2019, the day after an attack on a paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Kashmir. INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

India’s bid to have Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) chief Masood Azhar declared as a “global terrorist” by the UN Security Council has once again been blocked by China.

Beijing placed a “technical” hold on the UN resolution on Wednesday, the fourth time China has blocked such a resolution against Azhar.

Following the deadly bomb attack in Kashmir's Pulwama in February that was claimed by JeM, France, the United Kingdom and the United States asked the UN Security Council to reconsider the motion.

The attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir on February 14 resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian troops and sparked the recent escalation in tensions between the two nuclear-armed powers.

In a statement, India’s Foreign Ministry said it was “disappointed” by the outcome, according to CNN affiliate CNN News 18.

“This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a proscribed and active terrorist organization, which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019," said the statement.

"We will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens are brought to justice.”

Jaish-e-Mohammed, which translates to the Army of the Prophet Mohammed, has been designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department since 2001. It seeks to unite the Indian controlled area of Kashmir with Pakistan.

2:10 a.m. ET, March 14, 2019

Modi's tweetstorm: 29 tweets in 60 minutes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Modi is known for his use of social media. With 46.3 million followers on Twitter, Modi has more followers than any world leader except President Donald Trump.

With the election fast approaching, he has taken his Twitter use to another level, on Wednesday, Modi went on a tweeting spree, posting 29 tweets in the space of an hour.

Throughout the tweet storm, he tagged a range of politicians, Bollywood stars, athletes and journalists urging them to encourage people to vote in the national elections.

These included tweets to arch political rivals Congress party president Rahul Gandhi and chief minister of West Bengal state and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee to Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and film superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan as well as director Karan Johar.

“Urging @SrBachchan, @iamsrk and @karanjohar to creatively ensure high voter awareness and participation in the coming elections. Because...its all about loving your democracy (and strengthening it)” Modi tweeted.

Johar alongside actors Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar were a handful of those who retweeted the post with their own comments.

Modi ended with a tweet saying, “My fellow Indians, urging you all to strengthen voter awareness efforts across India. Let us all ensure maximum number of Indians come out to vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.”

5:06 a.m. ET, March 13, 2019

Gandhi addresses students in Tamil Nadu 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has answered questions from female students during a town hall style meeting at Stella Maris College in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Gandhi has increasingly taken to engaging directly with voters at informal meetings -- addressing issues ranging from corruption and governance to health and education.

Speaking at the all-women college, Gandhi took questions on India’s slow rate of growth, the job crisis and access to education.

"Education is way too expensive especially higher education," said Gandhi. "You cannot build a modern education system with the amount of money India is spending on education."

Gandhi used the town hall to hit out once again at India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alleging that its economic policy had weakened India and disadvantaged young people.

BJP leader Narendra Modi has not addressed a single press conference during his five years in office -- something that Gandhi has been trying to turn to his advantage.

“How many times have you seen the Prime Minister standing in the middle of 3,000 women… being open to a question from anybody,” said Gandhi.

4:18 a.m. ET, March 13, 2019

A more united opposition?

Indian elections aren't just about the two biggest parties. There are dozens of regional groupings which play a crucial role, too.

In an unusual move, two rival political parties in Uttar Pradesh -- the country's electorally most consequential state -- have recently formed an alliance which will likely cut into support for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Nor is the development confined to Uttar Pradesh.

Smaller political parties across the country are coming together and shelving their ideologies to achieve one goal: Getting Modi and the BJP out.

The smaller regional parties are not big enough to take on the BJP or Congress nationwide but have grown stronger since 2014, making this election all the more unpredictable.

Despite sweeping the polls in 2014, the BJP garnered just 31% of the vote -- the lowest vote share of any party to win a majority in India's history. A fragmented opposition allowed it to secure power on its own.

But a drop of just a few percentage points in its vote share could relegate Modi and his party to the opposition benches in Parliament.

Read more about why the 2019 Indian election feels different to 2014 here.

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4:12 a.m. ET, March 13, 2019

Priyanka Gandhi: 'Your vote is a weapon'

Many hope Priyanka Gandhi's decision to enter into frontline politics will provide a boost to the Congress party ahead of the polls, on April 11.
Many hope Priyanka Gandhi's decision to enter into frontline politics will provide a boost to the Congress party ahead of the polls, on April 11. Subhankar Chakraborty/ Hindustan Times

Priyanka Gandhi, the youngest member of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, has used her first ever national campaign speech to focus on the importance of "political awareness."

Gandhi, who officially entered into frontline politics in January this year, made the pitch while addressing a Congress party rally in Gujarat, the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Tuesday.

“There is no stronger patriotism than being aware. It is your awareness that is a weapon. Your vote is a weapon," said Gandhi. "This is the kind of weapon that will make you stronger.”

Throughout the speech, Gandhi appeared to target Modi without explicitly using his name.

"Those who talk big in front of you, make big promises to you -- ask them -- the 20 million jobs that were promised, where are the jobs?"

The Congress party has so far focused heavily on what they claim is Modi's failed bid to overhaul the country's economy amid rising rates of unemployment.

“How will the youth get employment, how will women feel safe and move ahead, what can be done for the farmers -- these are the issues,” said Gandhi.

Read more about Priyanka Gandhi here.

2:06 a.m. ET, March 13, 2019

Why the 2019 Indian election feels different to 2014

Supporters of the Congress party wave flags as party president Rahul Gandhi speaks during a rally on March 12, 2019.
Supporters of the Congress party wave flags as party president Rahul Gandhi speaks during a rally on March 12, 2019. Sam Panthaky/AFP

India's ruling Hindu nationalist party, which stormed to power five years ago in the world's biggest democracy, is on the defensive as the next general election approaches but the opposition Congress has failed to press home its advantage.

Dozens of regional parties may hold the balance of power when Indians begin votIng on April 11. After more than a month of phased balloting, the nationwide result will be announced on May 23.

Flash back to 2014 and it was a Congress-led government which looked weak and tired, vulnerable to a strong and energised Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi which promised to transform India. 

Congress, bolstered by victories in three key state elections in December, is stronger than in 2014 -- but critics say it has focused on attacking the Modi government at the expense of outlining its own vision for the country.  

The BJP's election message this year appears simply to be: We are better than the Congress, and we need more time to deliver a new India.

For the Congress so far, it boils down to: We are not the BJP.

Read more on the topic here.

2:36 a.m. ET, March 13, 2019

Candidates take center stage

Punit Paranjpe/AFP
Punit Paranjpe/AFP

An Indian shopkeeper puts up face masks of political leaders at a shop in Mumbai, Monday, as election fever takes hold.

The last time India voted to choose a new national government in 2014, a total of 8,251 candidates from different parties stood for election across the country.

The number reflects both the vastness and diversity of India's political system, with hundreds of parties -- representing people with varying cultures and customs -- contesting.

7:42 a.m. ET, March 12, 2019

Congress Party blames Modi for loss of "millions of jobs"

A worker dries materials bearing the colors of India's opposition Congress Party on March 11.
A worker dries materials bearing the colors of India's opposition Congress Party on March 11. SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images

India’s main opposition Congress Party hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi following a strategy meeting in the western state of Gujarat on Tuesday.

Modi’s leadership is exploitative and his policy decisions have caused the loss of “millions of jobs,” Anand Sharma a spokesperson for the Congress Party said and reiterated the party's commitment to undoing the damage inflicted by Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) on the people of India.

“The forthcoming elections are about the country, its people and its issues... What the Congress party says and promises has credibility and conviction,” said Sharma.

The strategy meeting brought senior party leaders together in Gujarat -- Modi’s home state -- and took place just two days after the announcement that India’s national elections will conclude on May 23.

Sharma also responded to criticism of Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi after Modi questioned the patriotism of his rival following the terror attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir in February.

“We have been very clear in our determination to fight terrorism and any attacks on our motherland. This is one such issue on which India has always been together," said Sharma.

"We have spoken in one voice and we stand united as a country should. Therefore, it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister is seeking to divide the nation."

5:25 a.m. ET, March 12, 2019

Parties use Salt March anniversary to attack each other

India’s main opposition Congress Party is meeting in western Gujarat state’s Ahmedabad today for a high-profile strategy meeting.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) is expected to finalize the party’s strategy ahead of the April-May general elections.

The meeting comes on the 89th anniversary of independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi's two-month long Salt March, or Dandi March -- a major non-violent protest against the repressive salt tax imposed on Indians during the colonial British era -- in Gujarat state.

In a tweet, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who is not related to the independence leader, said the CWC "is resolved to defeat the RSS/ BJP ideology of fascism, hatred, anger & divisiveness."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also used the anniversary to hit back at his main rival. Writing in a blog post on his website, he said "the anti-thesis of Gandhian thought is the Congress culture."

"Gandhi Ji said that he does not believe in inequality and caste divisions. Sadly, the Congress has never hesitated from dividing society," Modi wrote.