Results of India's election are due on Friday, after a record number of voters cast their ballot in the five-week-long marathon. Although India's elections are notoriously difficult to predict, exit polls project a win for a coalition led by the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi.
Here are the highlights:
- There are 543 seats in the lower house of parliament known as the Lok Sabha. In addition, two Anglo-Indian members may be nominated by the president if he feels that the community is not adequately represented in the house.
- For a political party to secure a parliamentary majority, and form the government, it needs to win 272 seats in the elections. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have called their campaign "Mission 272+" for this reason.
- Winning an outright majority has grown more difficult over the years for the two main national parties - Congress, which has governed India as part of a coalition for the last decade, and the opposition BJP.
- That's because power has increasingly radiated toward regional parties, whose support has been crucial to form a government.
- Some of these regional players have also banded together to form a loose "third front", a possible alternative to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
- Outside support from regional parties can be fickle. The UPA government that came to power in 2004 was propped up by communist parties. However, they withdrew support after the government struck a civilian nuclear deal with the United States in 2008.
- The second UPA government that was elected in 2009 received support from the Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress Party. The mercurial leader of West Bengal pulled the plug in 2012 after the government decided to raise diesel prices and allow foreign big-box stores in India.
- Banerjee is not the only female regional party leader capable of shaping the new government. Two more parties are led by female firebrands - Jayalalithaa Jayaram in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and Kumari Mayawati in the northern heartland of Uttar Pradesh.
- There's a lot at stake for India these elections - the country faces its longest slowdown since the 1980s at less than 5 percent economic growth. India is targeting 8 percent growth to help create jobs for 10 million youngsters joining the workforce every year.
- India saw a record 66 percent turnout this general election as a young electorate and women engaged with politics more than ever before. Some 537 million people voted.
- The votes for 543 seats will be counted at 989 designated centres across the country, with each centre heavily guarded by local police and paramilitary forces.
- Contesting candidates are allowed inside counting centres if they agree to keep their armed guards at bay. Only candidates with special protection can be accompanied by personnel in plain clothes with a concealed weapon.
(Reporting by Sruthi Gottipati; Editing by Mike Collett-White)