A man sits in front of a mural depicting Indian political figures in Kolkata Reuters

Tour operators are wading into India's general election arena offering foreign nationals an "election tour" to follow the entire process which is being touted as the largest-ever democratic exercise in global history.

Several nationals from the US, Europe, Africa and Middle Eastern countries are said to have registered with a private tour operator for the six- and seven-nights package, which costs about $1,200.

"Despite summer, more people have committed to visit India during polls under 'Election Tourism' initiative. The idea of election tourism which was first conceived by us is going to deliver another influx of tourists in upcoming elections," Manish Sharma, a senior official at the Election Tourism India, told the Press Trust of India.

As many as 800 people from across the continents have already enrolled themselves for the tour, and Sharma hopes nearly 2,000 others will join at the last minute.

The first phase of the six-week-long parliamentary elections has already begun. This is India's 16<sup>th parliamentary general elections since it got independence from Britain in 1947.

With nearly 815 million eligible voters, more than 900,000 polling stations have been set up across the country.

As part of the tour package, the visitors will be able to witness the poll campaign and also get a chance to meet the candidates and election authorities.

Sharma said: "Elections in India are different from any other part of the world...Here is thrill, energy, enthusiasm amongst the parties and the masses. A large number of entries have been coming from Germany, France, America, United Kingdom, China, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Singapore."

Most of the tourists are also said to be keenly interested in visiting the city of Varanasi, where Narendra Modi, the main opposition party's prime ministerial contender and a hot favourite, and Arvind Kejriwal, the activist-turned-politician who was recently propelled into the spotlight, will lock horns.

The Indian government has also welcomed the initiative.