NEW DELHI: Indian police detained an ineligible 17-year-old on Monday for voting eight times for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, as rivals screamed voter fraud in the ongoing national polls.

The Election Commission of India suspended poll officials and ordered a fresh vote at the polling station after the excited minor’s video of himself voting for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) went viral.

“This is the second vote,” the boy said, smiling into his phone’s camera after pressing the electronic voting machine button for a BJP candidate in Uttar Pradesh.

“Now look! This is my third vote... have now voted five times already, now going for the sixth time,” he adds with a finger-count gesture after every press, before finally stopping after the eighth time.

The minimum voting age in India is 18 years.

“We have detained the juvenile and prima facie he has verified what was visible to all in the viral video,” deputy police superintendent Dhananjay Singh Kushwaha said.

“He told us that he voted eight times and made the video,” the officer added, refusing to comment further.

The chief electoral office in Uttar Pradesh said on X that all polling officials at the polling station had been suspended and would be disciplined.

The incident occured in Farrukhabad, about 190 kilometres west of the state capital Lucknow.

Uttar Pradesh has more than 250 million people _ a larger population than Brazil _ and its 80 legislators are key to anyone seeking national power in India.

Modi is widely expected to win the poll, but his political rivals flagged the incident as an example of their allegations that election authorities favour the ruling party and do not enforce rules properly.

The Indian premier, who remains widely popular and is seeking his third consecutive term, has been accused of weakening key democratic institutions, including the press, and targeting his political rivals.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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