Apr 11, 2019 14:12 Asia/Tehran

People began voting in the world's largest election on Thursday, with 18 states and 2 union territories casting their ballots in the first phase of India’s six-week-long polls.

Iran Press/Asia: Nearly a billion people will vote in India's general election, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a second term in office.

India is the world's largest democracy, with a population of 1.3 billion. Of that, nearly 900 million people are eligible to vote. There are 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs, including that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who's running for a second term, Indian media reported.

The Indian-controlled areas of the disputed Kashmir region were among the first to vote.

Modi is the frontrunner in this election. He and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, are running for another five-year term.

The BJP is a Hindu nationalist party that's brought India's majority Hindu faith into politics and public life in unprecedented ways.

Under the BJP, many Indian states have banned beef, because cows are sacred to Hindus. They've revised school textbooks, and changed the names of Indian cities with Muslim-sounding names.

Modi has campaigned as a pro-business, anti-corruption candidate, and he sought to portray himself as a safe pair of hands during recent violence with neighbouring Pakistan.

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