India Faces Second Heatwave Amidst Ongoing Elections

India’s weather bureau has issued a warning about an impending heatwave, the second in three weeks, which coincides with a critical phase of the six-week national election. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast temperatures 2-3 degrees Celsius above normal, affecting states where millions are set to vote, including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand.

Analysts suggest that expectations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s easy third-term victory, coupled with higher-than-average temperatures, may contribute to lower voter turnout compared to the 2019 national poll.

The IMD’s forecast indicates “moderate” heatwave conditions with temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the affected states. The capital, New Delhi, is expected to see maximum temperatures of 45C (113F) over the weekend. The IMD has warned of “moderate health concerns” for vulnerable populations, including infants, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses, advising residents to avoid exposure to the heat.

In response to the heatwave, India’s election commission has formed a task force to evaluate the impact of heatwaves and humidity on voter turnout. Notably, in Mathura, near New Delhi, temperatures surpassed 41C (106F) on a recent polling day, leading to a significant drop in voter turnout.

Prime Minister Modi has urged voters to stay hydrated during the heatwave. This year, India and other parts of South and Southeast Asia have experienced prolonged heatwaves, with climate change being a significant factor in the increasing intensity, frequency, and duration of these extreme weather events.

Severe storms have also hit parts of the country recently, including Mumbai, where a billboard collapse caused by strong winds resulted in 16 deaths and left dozens trapped. Additionally, lightning strikes during a thunderstorm in West Bengal claimed at least 11 lives on Thursday.

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