Elections in India | PM Modi votes in his home state

(Ahmedabad) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently seeking a third term in general elections, voted on Tuesday, amid criticism from the opposition who accuse him of denigrating Muslim minorities.

Mr. Modi emerged from a polling station in the city of Ahmedabad, in his native state of Gujarat (west), surrounded by security agents, showing one of his fingers marked with indelible ink to supporters who cheered him.

In a message on X, Mr Modi, 73, called for voting “to strengthen our democracy”.

Political analysts gave him the victory even before the start of the elections which have been taking place since April 19, in seven phases, until 1er June.

In total, 968 million Indians are expected to elect the 543 members of the lower house, more than the total population of the United States, the European Union and Russia combined.

The cantor of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is still very popular after two terms during which India increased its diplomatic influence and economic weight.

He gave the BJP two landslide victories in 2014 and 2019 by playing on the religious fiber of the Hindu electorate.

The Prime Minister is presenting his own candidacy in Varanasi, the ancient Benares, the sacred city of Hinduism, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which will only vote in the seventh and final phase of voting on 1er June.

India’s main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, 53, is fighting to retain the Congress seat of Wayanad in Kerala state, a stronghold of the BJP’s opponents.

“Directly sectarian”

The opposition and rights defenders denounce a certain democratic backsliding and accuse Mr. Modi of favoring Hindus, the majority in the country, to the detriment of significant minorities, including 210 million Muslim Indians, worried about their future.

Conversely, Mr. Modi accused the Congress, the main opposition party, of wanting to distribute “national wealth” to “infiltrators”, “to those who have the most children”, thus designating the Muslim community.

Indignant, the opposition contacted the electoral authorities who did not sanction the Prime Minister. However, India is constitutionally secular and its electoral code prohibits any campaign based on “communal sentiments”.

“I didn’t know him to be so directly sectarian, usually he is more allusive,” said Hartosh Singh Bal, editor of the news magazine The Caravan.

“The comment on wealth redistribution addressed a topic that simply does not exist on the Congressional agenda,” he added.

Earlier this year, Narendra Modi inaugurated a large Hindu temple in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh) dedicated to the deity Ram, built on the site of the Babri mosque dating from the 16th century.e century which was destroyed by Hindu fanatics in 1992.

The inauguration of the temple, eagerly awaited by BJP activists, benefited from extensive media coverage and public festivities throughout India.

“Unworthy of a democracy”

Since Mr. Modi came to power, India stands at 159e rank out of 180 countries in the world ranking of press freedom established by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which judges this “place unworthy of a democracy”.

In a recent daily interview Times of IndiaNarendra Modi refuted any autocratic drift, accusing the opposition of “defaming” India abroad.

Participation in the general elections has so far been lower than in 2019, with analysts attributing this decline to “a certain disinterest” among voters, others to the heat wave sweeping across the country.

In Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), where it was 41°C on April 26, polling day, the electoral commission noted a drop of almost nine points in the participation rate compared to 2019.

Meteorological services predict scorching temperatures in the coming days in several states, including Madhya Pradesh and Bihar which will vote in this third phase.

In the state of Telangana, where voting will take place later in May, authorities announced that electoral offices would remain open for an extra hour due to the heatwave.

This exceptional heat is currently affecting South and Southeast Asia. According to experts, climate change is resulting in more frequent, more intense and longer heat waves.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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