South Asia

World's largest-ever exercise in democracy underway in India

Women wait to cast their votes in Muzaffarnagar, India. Photo: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The world's largest-ever exercise in democracy began today, the first of 7 election days over the next 5 weeks as India's 900 million registered voters cast their ballots.

The big picture: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was swept into power 5 years ago promising to turbocharge India's economy and flex its muscles on the world stage. This election represents a referendum on him, Alyssa Ayres of the Council on Foreign Relations writes for Axios Expert Voices:

Expert Voices

Modi’s vision of India is on the ballot in parliamentary elections

India's prime minister Narenda Modi with the president of his political party
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah holding up copies of the party manifesto in New Delhi. Photo: Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Indians began casting votes for their lower house of parliament on Thursday, in an election that represents a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Why it matters: The elections are taking place amid worries about unemployment, recent tensions with Pakistan and the future of secularism in India.