efe-epaVaranasi, India

Around 100 million people were called to cast their vote on Sunday in eight regions of India in the seventh and final phase of the general elections.

The process began on Apr. 11 and the country's incumbent prime minister is widely expected to be re-elected.

Close to 113,000 polling stations opened at 7 am and the voter turnout was 10.2 percent at the end of the first one-and-a-half hours of voting, led by the remote eastern state of Jharkhand, where voter turnout was 15 percent, according to data from the Election Commission of India.

Many residents were seen holding up their fingers after casting their ballots in a sign that they had just voted.

Indelible ink is applied to the forefinger of voters during elections in order to prevent electoral fraud such as double voting.

Fifty-nine of the 543 seats of the Lok Sabha – the lower house of the Indian Parliament – are up for grabs in several parts of northern India, including several constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state with almost 200 million inhabitants and 80 seats.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is contesting from Varanasi, the holy Hindu city located in Uttar Pradesh.

The Hindu nationalist leader spent Saturday night meditating in a cave in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

"Today is the final phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections," he said on his Twitter account.

"I urge all those voting in this phase to vote in record numbers.

"Your one vote will shape India’s development trajectory in the years to come."

The prime minister added: "I also hope first-time voters vote enthusiastically."

Modi and his party, the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata, remain the favorites to win the elections despite a recent surge in the polls seen by the center-left Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, India's most powerful and influential political dynasty.

The INC hopes to challenge the incumbent government by forging a series of alliances with other parties.

The results of the elections are scheduled to be announced on May 23. EFE-EPA

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