0535 GMT October 14, 2019
More than 100 million people across seven states were voting on Sunday. The 39-day-long poll kicked off on April 11 with Modi as frontrunner after an escalation of tension with neighboring Pakistan, Reuters reported.
But opposition parties have taken heart at what they see as signs Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may be losing ground and have begun negotiations over a postelection alliance even before polling ends on May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.
The president of the main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, said the main issues in the election were unemployment, economic hardship in the countryside, the demonetization of bank notes and a new sales tax.
“It was a good fight,” Gandhi said after he cast his vote.
A lack of new jobs – despite annual economic growth of about seven percent – and the plight of farmers struggling with falling crop prices have been major worries for voters.
A new goods and services tax (GST), as well as Modi’s shock ban on all high-value currency notes in 2016, hurt small and medium businesses.
Some voters in the capital, New Delhi, said they were backing Modi because they were won over by his tough stance on security.
"I have voted for Modi's sound foreign policy and national security," said a 36-year-old first time voter who declined to be identified.
Political analysts say that state-based and caste-driven parties could be decisive in determining the makeup of the next government.
"Regional parties will play a bigger role compared to the previous five years or even 15 years," said K.C. Suri, a political science professor at the University of Hyderabad.
"They will regain their importance in national politics."
Recent weeks have also been marked by personal attacks between leaders, including comments from Modi about the family of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.
At a recent rally Modi called Gandhi's late father, former PM Rajiv Gandhi, "corrupt No. one".
The BJP says Modi was reacting to Rahul Gandhi calling him a thief.
"The political vitriolic has become intense, and negatively intense," said Ashok Acharya, a political science professor at the University of Delhi.
"It seems as if this particular election is all about a few political personalities. It is not about issues, any kind of an agenda."