NEW DELHI- India, the world’s largest democracy, is expected Wednesday to announce general elections that are forecast to bring the opposition Hindu nationalists led by hardliner Narendra Modi to power.
The election commission is expected to outline the schedule for the polls at a news conference due to start at 0500 GMT.
The Times of India reported that voting would begin in some states in early April and end more than a month later, with results expected in mid-May.
The world’s biggest voting exercise will see about 800 million people trek to the polls stretching from the remote Himalayas in the north to India’s tropical southern tip.
It will pit Modi, son of a tea-stall seller, against Rahul Gandhi, the Harvard and Cambridge-educated scion of India’s biggest political dynasty.
After two terms of coalition government led by the leftist Congress party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Modi is widely forecast to emerge as the largest party.
Modi, the leader of western Gujarat state since 2001, is seen as a pro-business reformer but his Hindu nationalism and links to anti-Muslim riots worry religious minorities and defenders of India’s officially secular character.
The 63-year-old, who rose through grassroots Hindu organizations, is publicly pitching a message of jobs and development to a country struggling with sluggish economic growth and still endemic poverty.
His main opponent in the Congress is the relatively untested Gandhi, the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers who is leading the party into a national election for the first time.
Opinion polls show Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat when anti-Muslim riots left as many as 2,000 people dead in 2002, holds a large advantage over his bitter rival.