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Modi fever sweeps ancient Hindu city ahead of election final

RT reports from Varanasi, the constituency of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is eyeing a third term in office

Varanasi, a holy Hindu city in India’ Uttar Pradesh state, has grabbed headlines as the weeks-long election nears its end. The reason for this is Narendra Modi, who is aiming for a third straight win from Varanasi constituency, widely considered a stronghold of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi is also eyeing a third straight term as the Prime Minister of the world’s largest nation.

RT’s Runjhun Sharma travelled to Varanasi to witness the mood on the ground. Modi, who is widely popular among the residents, won his last election from this constituency with over 63% of the votes, his closest competitor, Shalini Yadav of the Samajwadi Party obtained only 18%.

”[Modi] is a good, religious man,” a Varanasi resident told RT, when asked about his views on the incumbent. Another said that Modi will return as “he has done great work for people over the last few years.”

Tej Pratap Singh, a political science professor at Banaras Hindu University, has drawn parallels between the Indian leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “People like their leader to have a macho foreign policy,” he told RT. “People like [Putin] because of his muscular foreign policy, aggressive behavior; he is seen as someone who will do anything, go to any extent to protect Russia’s interests. Narendra Modi is just like him, not a weak-hearted person.”

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The Modi government’s “foremost guiding principle” in foreign affairs is India’s national interest, according to the Prime Minister. “This stance allows us to engage with various nations in a manner that respects mutual interests and acknowledges the complexities of contemporary geopolitics,” he told FT in an interview last year. The approach has seen India continue its trade and diplomatic engagements with Moscow despite intense scrutiny from the West.

Religion plays a key role in Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s holiest sites, and is likely to affect polls as well. The constituency’s electorate primarily consists of upper-caste Hindus. Before filing his nomination earlier this month, Modi prayed at the Dasaswamedh Ghat on the banks of the Ganga River. Before the announcement of results, Modi is set to undertake another spiritual pilgrimage at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the country.

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“All that Modi has done, be it Ram temple in Ayodhya, removing article 370 in Kashmir, or free ration for poor,” another city dweller noted.

During his second term in office, Modi fulfilled three of the core pledges he’d made in 2019: overturning Article 370 of the Constitution granting special rights to the Kashmir region, enacting a citizenship act to fast-track naturalization for ‘minority’ communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, most of whom are Hindus, and erecting a temple devoted to the Hindu deity Ram in Ayodhya on a contested plot of land where a mosque once stood.

Modi’s ascendancy in Varanasi will be challenged by the Indian National Congress, the country’s biggest opposition party, which ruled the country for over 50 years. India’s oldest party will field Ajay Rai, considered a “strongman” in the area. Rahul Gandhi, the face of the Congress, who campaigned in Varanasi on Tuesday, blamed Modi for “rising unemployment” in India. “I am telling you with a guarantee that after June 4, Narendra Modi ji will not be the prime minister of this country,” Gandhi said.

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May 29, 2024 at 06:37PM

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