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Narendra Modi launches his bid for marathon elections in India

Narendra Modi launches his bid for marathon elections in India

 


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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has formally filed papers to seek re-election in his constituency in the holy city of Varanasi, where he was mobbed by political supporters as he ran for a third term.

Modi bathed in the Ganges on Tuesday and offered prayers before filing his nomination papers. In 2014, the year he became Prime Minister, I said Mama Ganges called me…now I feel like she adopted me, he said in a video posted on the social media platform

The seven-phase election, which is spread over six weeks due to India's size and logistical challenges, is now more than halfway through. The fourth phase of voting was held on Monday.

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party is projected as the heavy favorite to win, and analysts described the vote as a referendum on his decade in power, including his brand of vigorous Hindu nationalism, his foreign policy record and his handling of the fifth largest economy in the world.

But the opposition, led by the Indian National Congress and made up of liberal, left-wing and regional parties, claimed voters were more unhappy than opinion polls suggest, pointing to low voter turnout to argue that the BJP is underperforming. The opposition predicts a repeat of the 2004 poll, when a Congress-led coalition defeated the incumbent BJP government.

Turnout in the first three phases of voting was just over 66 percent, about 3 percentage points lower than in India's last polls in 2019.

Ajay Rai, the opposition candidate in Varanasi who unsuccessfully challenged Modi twice in the past, insisted in an interview that the solidarity of the bloc that united this year under the acronym INDIA had strengthened his chances.

My victory is certain because everyone who is angry about unemployment and other problems is all coming to us, Rai told the Financial Times.

Analysts have said it is premature to predict the results of the vote, and official polls are banned by the electoral commission during the long voting process, which ends on June 1. The results will be announced on June 4.

It would be a foolish task to try to guess what will happen with the results, said Neelanjan Sircar, a senior researcher at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. We have certainly seen a change in rhetoric from the Prime Minister, but what are the numbers? [the BJP] we actually see internally, we don't know.

Modi, India's most powerful leader since Indira Gandhi, relied on polarizing language during his election campaign, attacking India's Muslim minority and accusing Congress of favoring them over the Hindu majority in the country. during his decades in power.

At a rally last week, the 73-year-old prime minister said voters had a choice between voting for jihad and Ram rajya, or the rule of the Hindu god Ram. In January, Modi kicked off his campaign by presiding over the dedication of a temple to Ram in Ayodhya, which was built on the site of a destroyed Mughal-era mosque.

Last week, Modi also claimed without evidence that Congress had accepted black money from billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, overturning opposition leader Rahul Gandhi's long-standing accusations that Modi himself was too close to India's politically connected tycoons.

Modi has set a goal of increasing the parliamentary seat share of the BJP and its allies to a supermajority of 400 in the 543-seat lower house, a significant jump from the 303 seats the party won in 2019.

Congress has focused its campaign on lower-caste Indians, who make up more than half the population, as opposition alliance politicians have accused Modi of undermining India's secular values ​​and the BJP defied the still high unemployment rate in the country.

Modi and other BJP politicians have accused Congress of seeking to implement religion-based quotas for government and military jobs, a move that would dilute the representation of lower-caste Hindus.

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