India, the world's largest democracy, holds a general election
in April and May.
Here is a timeline of key dates in India's election history:
1947- Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the founding fathers of independent India, becomes the country's first prime minister. His appointment starts a long period of political dominance of the Congress party and the country's most powerful dynasty, the Gandhi-Nehru family.
1952- Nehru leads Congress to a clear victory in the country's first ever general election and retains the prime ministership, which he held until his death in 1964.
1967- Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi leads Congress to another victory and becomes the country's only female prime minister. She wins another election victory in 1971 - the year India trounced Pakistan in the third war between the two countries since 1947.
1975-1977- Indira Gandhi imposes a State of Emergency, which critics says gave her near dictatorial powers.
1977- Morarji Desai, an ageing supporter of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophies, becomes Prime Minister as the Janata coalition defeats Indira Gandhi, to form the first non-Congress government.
1980- Indira Gandhi re-elected again, but is assassinated four years later by her Sikh bodyguards after a suppression of Sikh separatism that culminated in the storming of the Golden Temple.
1984- Rajiv Gandhi, Indira's son and a former commercial pilot, becomes India's youngest prime minister and leads Congress to victory. Gandhi is voted out five years later after becoming embroiled in the Bofors scandal, a defence deal, of which he was posthumously cleared in 2004.
1996- The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), founded in 1980, wins power for the first time. The charismatic Atal Bihari Vajpayee becomes Prime Minister for most of the next eight years.
2004- The BJP loses to Congress despite presiding over healthy economic growth. Its India Shining campaign fails to resonate with voters. Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of Rajiv Gandhi, leads a Congress victory, but steps aside to let Manmohan Singh become prime minister, ending sniping about her nationality.