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Voting begins in the last round of India's election, a referendum on Modi's decade in power

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NEW DELHI (AP) — Indians began voting Saturday in the last round of a six-week-long national election that is a referendum on Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decade in power.

The election is considered one of the most consequential in India’s history. If Modi wins, he’ll be only the second Indian leader to retain power for a third term after Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister.

The seventh round of voting in 57 constituencies across seven states and one union territory will complete polling for all 543 seats in the powerful lower house of parliament. Nearly 970 million voters — more than 10% of the world’s population — were eligible to elect a new parliament for five years. More than 8,300 candidates ran for the office.

Most polls show Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party leading over the broad opposition alliance that’s challenging them, led by the Congress party. The votes will be counted Tuesday, with results expected by the end of the day.

Modi’s campaign, vying for a third-straight term, began on a platform of economic progress. He promised to uplift the poor and turn India into a developed nation by 2047. But it has turned increasingly shrill in recent weeks as he escalated polarizing rhetoric in back-to-back incendiary speeches that targeted the country’s Muslim minority, who make up 14% of India’s 1.4 billion people.