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Millions of Indians across 96 constituencies have cast their ballots as the country’s gigantic, six-week-long election edges past its halfway mark.

Monday’s polling in the fourth round of election across nine states and one union territory is pivotal for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking a third straight term but facing the voters’ fury over unemployment and inflation.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies are pitted against an alliance of more than two dozen opposition parties, including the main rival Indian National Congress party.

The world’s most populous nation began voting on April 19 in the seven-phase elections in which nearly one billion people are eligible to elect 543 members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. The ballots will be counted on June 4.

The vote on Monday for 96 parliament seats largely covered the southern and eastern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, where the BJP is not as strong as in the country’s north and west.

Some seats in BJP strongholds in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states also went to the polls on Monday, while crucial seats in Maharashtra and Bihar states, where the right-wing party governs in alliances with regional parties, were also up for grabs in the fourth phase.

With the fourth phase vote, the fate of 379 out of 543 constituencies has been sealed.

Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-administered Kashmir, also voted for the first time since Modi’s 2019 decision to remove the region’s semiautonomy.

According to analysts, the BJP is not contesting there as the outcome could contradict Modi’s narrative of a peaceful, more integrated Kashmir.

“I voted after over two decades … just to get relief from what we are facing here,” said Bashir Ahmad Lala, 67, a Srinagar resident.

Political scientist Christopher Snedden told Al Jazeera the election was significant in the Muslim-majority valley area of the Himalayan region.

“On the one hand, Mr Modi says ‘yes, we want everybody to be part of India’. But on the other, he’s been saying some things that have been a little worrisome to Muslims,” he told Al Jazeera, referring to the Indian leader’s polarising rhetoric in campaign speeches.

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