PM Modi files nomination papers in India’s general election

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves toward his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, India. (Reuters)
Updated 26 April 2019
0

PM Modi files nomination papers in India’s general election

  • Voting in three of the seven phases of the staggered elections has finished
  • In total, some 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament

VARANASI, India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi filed nomination papers Friday in a Hindu holy city, hoping to hold onto the seat for a second time in India’s general elections.
He prayed at a temple before arriving at the election office in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state, flanked by Amit Shah, president of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party, and several state chief ministers. As his car passed, people shouted slogans such as “Har Har, Modi!” or “Hail, Modi!“
Thousands of BJP activists, some carrying party flags and sporting saffron caps, waived at Modi who responded with a smile. People also showered rose petals on him. Many were perched on the road dividers and many more watched the show from windows and roofs of homes on both sides of the roads.
Voting in three of the seven phases of the staggered elections has finished. In total, some 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament. Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.
With around 1.7 million voters, Varanasi will go the polls on May 19. The election is seen as a referendum on Modi and his party. The campaigning has been marred by accusations, insults and unprecedented use of social media to spread false information.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities for Hindus in India and is based at the banks of the Ganges River, or Ganga. Hindus believe Varanasi is the center of the world and anyone who dies in the city attains salvation.
Invoking Hindu symbolism, Modi told party workers before filing his nomination papers: “Mother Ganga will take care of me.”
“Last time when I contested nobody told me to come here, nobody sent me to Varanasi. Mother Ganga has invited me,” he said.
Modi supporters say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing. But critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions in India.
In his five years as prime minister, Modi has pushed to promote this secular nation of 1.3 billion people and nine major religions as a distinctly Hindu state. He has rallied his support base with Hindu mega projects across India, including in Varanasi, but has also been blamed for rising attacks by Hindu mobs against minorities, mainly Muslims who number about 170 million.
Modi and his party also have adopted aggressive nationalism, using the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir to pivot away from his economic record and playing up the threat of rival Pakistan. The approach was employed especially after a suicide bombing in Kashmir on Feb. 14 killed 40 soldiers, causing brief fighting with Pakistan and allowing Modi to portray himself as a strong, uncompromising leader on national security.


15 killed in dark day for Mumbai daily train commute

Updated 53 min 15 sec ago
0

15 killed in dark day for Mumbai daily train commute

  • Nearly 50,000 people were killed in accidents along tracks and on trains across India from 2015 to 2017, according to Indian Railways data
  • In May, three teenagers were killed while taking selfies on a railway track in Haryana state

MUMBAI: Fifteen people were killed in separate train accidents in a single day in Mumbai, police said Friday, with the sharp toll underscoring the dangers of India’s overburdened rail network.
Some of the victims were hit while trying to cross the tracks illegally while others fell from packed trains on Thursday, police spokesman S.R. Gandhi said.
At least 13 others suffered injuries, with police blaming the deaths on people attempting to take short cuts in the monsoon rains battering India’s financial capital.
“Too many people prefer to take shortcuts,” said Gandhi.
About 7.5 million passengers use the overcrowded trains daily on Mumbai’s colonial-era rail network, a lifeline for the city’s 20 million residents.
An average of 10 people die on the network every day, either from falling off crowded trains or while crossing the tracks.
Nearly 50,000 people were killed in accidents along tracks and on trains across India from 2015 to 2017, according to Indian Railways data.
In May, three teenagers were killed while taking selfies on a railway track in Haryana state.
While Indian trains carry nearly 24 million passengers every day, critics say the aging network is inefficient, overburdened and often unsafe.