NEW DELHI - India, the world's biggest democracy, on Wednesday set April 7 as the start of parliamentary elections expected to see the opposition Hindu nationalists led by hardliner Narendra Modi come to power.
The Election Commission announced that the polls would be held in nine phases until May 12, with 814 million people set to cast their votes - 100 million more than in the last elections in 2009.
Results are expected to be announced on May 16 after counting.
"The first date of polls shall be on 7th April," Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath told a press conference.
"The commission appeals to all stakeholders, and in particular the political parties and candidates, to uphold the fairness (and) democratic traditions by maintaining high standards of political discourse and fair play in the course of the campaign," Sampath said.
A total of 930,000 polling stations will be set up, stretching from the remote Himalayas in the north to India's tropical southern tip.
Sampath said the commission had taken into account weather conditions across the country, school holidays, and harvesting time for farmers when setting the dates.
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 biggest party in the next parliament.