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NEW DELHI: India’s election commission said Monday a staggering 642 million people voted in just-concluded six-week-long polls, a day ahead of the results which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely expected to win.

Nearly all observers believe Modi’s appeals to Hindu nationalist sentiment will give him a third term in power, a decade after he first took office.

Exit polls show 73-year-old Modi is well on track to triumph, with the premier saying he was confident that “the people of India have voted in record numbers” to re-elect his government.

Modi’s opponents have been hamstrung by infighting and what they say are politically motivated criminal cases aimed at hobbling challengers to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Monday praised the complex logistical operation of the election, saying that the “voter is the real winner”.

While total numbers of voters were up, turnout appeared to be slightly reduced from the last general elections.

Based on the commission’s figure of an electorate of 968 million, 66.3 percent of eligible voters turned out so far, down roughly one percentage point on the 2019 vote, when turnout hit 67.4 percent.

Final voter turnout data will only be released after repolling in two stations in West Bengal state on Monday.

“We have created a world record of 642 million Indian voters, it is a historic moment for all of us,” Kumar told reporters, adding that nearly half of those — 312 million — were women.

Kumar said that “voters chose action over apathy, belief over cynicism and in some cases, the ballot over the bullet”, the commission said.

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