Thursday 20 June 2019

Meditating Modi rests easy as exit polls give him Indian election win

Democracy: An Indian man displays an indelible ink mark on his index finger to show he has cast his vote in the final phase of national elections on the outskirts of Varanasi in the north of the country. Photo: AP
Democracy: An Indian man displays an indelible ink mark on his index finger to show he has cast his vote in the final phase of national elections on the outskirts of Varanasi in the north of the country. Photo: AP

Saptarshi Ray

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked set to retain power last night, after exit polls showed his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies were on track to win a majority of seats in India's parliament.

With polls showing the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will win as many as 306 seats in India's 543-seat lower house, the controversial Hindu-nationalist leader would secure a second five-year term, though with a slimmer mandate than in 2014.

Shyam Saran Negi, who is aged 102 and has voted in all elections since 1951, waits to go the polling station. Photo: Reuters
Shyam Saran Negi, who is aged 102 and has voted in all elections since 1951, waits to go the polling station. Photo: Reuters

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance coalition, the opposition - which sank to historic lows last time out - was predicted to win about 132 seats, but a Congress spokesman dismissed the exit polls as "laughable", citing the shyness of voters in such a polarised contest.

The exit polls, which have proved wildly unreliable in the past, were released yesterday evening after the last of India's 900 million registered voters had cast their ballots. About two-thirds of the electorate are believed to have voted in the seven-­phase election which began on April 11.

The final result is due on Thursday.

The largely peaceful six-week campaign ended with violent clashes on the outskirts of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, when the BJP became involved in skirmishes with the regional Trinamool Congress party.

The projected result emerged as Mr Modi attracted anger and bemusement yesterday after wearing saffron robes to meditate in a Himalayan cave, with his aides saying they hoped the photos, posted on Twitter, would strike a chord with his austere religious supporters. Mr Modi was seen wearing the orange garments synonymous with Hindu priests and sitting cross-legged in a cave near the Kedarnath shrine, in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The pictures were mocked online as the "cave" is actually a man-made retreat.

"No meditation is complete or meaningful without the right attire, red carpet and, of course, a stage-managed photo opportunity," wrote Rupa Subramanya, an economist and a former BJP supporter turned critic.

Critics say Mr Modi sought to win votes by stoking fear among the Hindu majority of the potential dangers posed by the country's Muslims and Pakistan and promoted a Hindu-­first India.

But his supporters say Mr Modi and his allies are simply restoring Hinduism to its rightful place at the core of Indian society. Muslims make up about 14pc of India's 1.3 billion population. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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