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As voting ends in India, Mr. Modi awaits the verdict on his 10 years in power

Voting in India’s general election, a six-week referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decade in power, ended on Saturday as much of the country’s populous northern region suffered a deadly heat wave.

The results will be tallied and announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Modi, with his power already deeply consolidated, is seen as likely to win a third consecutive term as prime minister, which would make him the second leader in nearly 75 years of India being a the republic achieved that feat. Exit polls released after the final round of voting showed a comfortable return for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP

A newly unified opposition has emerged start the match, protesting against Modi’s divisive politics and his management of India’s deeply unequal economic growth. But opinion polls show they are struggling to win a sizable majority in the 543-seat Parliament held by Mr. Modi’s party.

In a message of thanks after the voting ended, Mr. Modi expressed confidence that “the people of India voted in record numbers to re-elect” his government. But Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the largest opposition party, the Indian National Congress, downplayed the poll results as “government survey” and said official results would show his coalition ahead.

The election, held in phases over a month and a half, is the world’s largest democratic contest, with more than 950 million eligible voters. The final phase of the campaign drew massive protests even as northern India was hit hard. an intense heat wavewith temperatures regularly exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than 43 degrees Celsius.

At least 19 poll workers have died from heatstroke or other health complications due to the heat in recent days.

Elections in a parliamentary system like India’s are typically held on a seat-by-seat basis, with the fate of the candidate determined by local economic and social factors. But the BJP has turned its parliamentary campaign into a presidential-style referendum, focusing almost entirely on Modi and his leadership. The party hopes that Modi’s deep popularity will help it overcome growing anti-incumbency sentiment after 10 years of the BJP in power.

Mr. Modi has held about 200 rallies across the country over more than two months of campaigning, hoping to lift struggling candidates in his party. He also made headlines in the media, giving about 80 interviews to television stations and newspapers, most of which were friendly to him.

As the campaign ended and the mandatory two-day election pause began, Mr. Modi retreated south to a memorial to one of the Indians. most famous monk for two days of meditation. The domestic media followed. The stream of videos and photos released by his office, shot from multiple angles in a place where photography is not usually allowed, has led to debates about nightly news and television.

Modi’s opponents have objected sharply, saying the activity amounted to banned campaign activity – and it was a testament to the uneven playing field he has created.

“The weather was good. The Prime Minister was meditating there and he appeased the sun goddess,” Ravi Kishan, an actor and BJP candidate, told local media. “This is a historic event – today in the midst of intense heat, the wind began to blow.”

The opposition, hampered by arrests and other punitive actions as part of the crackdown, still musters its most united front in years. Opposition leaders see Modi as a friend of billionaires who are working to create jobs for the country’s large youth population. They call his party elitist, accusing it of failing to uplift those at the middle and lower levels of India’s caste system.

The opposition has raised concerns that if the BJP remains in power, it could change the country’s Constitution to eliminate preferential treatment for the middle and lower classes, a system that used decades ago to address centuries of oppression in India’s rigidly hierarchical society.

Mr. Modi has vehemently denied the allegation as baseless; the party under him increased its outreach to the lower classes. To try to keep his Hindu support base united, he turned to anti-Muslim rhetoric, leveling unusually direct attacks on him over the years. recently.

The opposition also tried to win over voters by promising a long list of social benefits, including loan waivers for farmers, cash transfers to women and paid vocational training for young people. . Modi, on the other hand, has clung to an image of fiscal prudence, highlighting only his existing proposals. His party members say that is because he is confident of winning a third term and does not want to overpromise.

But even as the opposition appears to be gaining some traction, it still faces a difficult task in toppling Mr. Modi’s government. He built a huge electoral advantage thanks to a powerful and well-funded political machine. In the last election, Modi’s party won 303 seats, nearly six times more than its closest national rival, the Indian National Congress.

KB pragmatic Contributed reporting from Kanyakumari, India.


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