PM Modi taking meditation break as mega polls close

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hectic campaign has seen him address three rallies a day on average, criss-crossing the length and breadth of the geographically diverse nation of 1.3 billion people.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hectic campaign has seen him address three rallies a day on average, criss-crossing the length and breadth of the geographically diverse nation of 1.3 billion people.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI • Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a spiritual break yesterday as India's acrimonious marathon election wound to a close after an eventful seven weeks filled with insults, violence and fake news.

On the eve of the final day of voting in the world's biggest democratic exercise, local media reports said Mr Modi, 68, would also spend some time in a "meditation cave".

Having addressed more than 140 election rallies across the country, Mr Modi arrived yesterday in Dehradun, capital of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand which is famous for its Hindu pilgrimage sites.

Mr Modi's hectic campaign, which started in March, has seen him address three rallies a day on average, criss-crossing the length and breadth of the geographically diverse nation of 1.3 billion people.

From Dehradun, the Hindu nationalist Premier travelled to Kedarnath and was due to go on to Badrinath to pay his respects at shrines dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Shiva.

But it was not all relaxation, with Mr Modi also expected to review reconstruction projects after floods in Uttarakhand in 2013 killed some 6,000 people.

The Premier is seeking a second term from India's 900 million voters after leading his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power in 2014, with results due on Thursday.

 
 
 
 

Opinion polls, although unreliable, predict that the BJP may lose seats this time despite its formidable campaigning machine, meaning it might need a coalition to form a new government.

Mr Modu's main rival is Mr Rahul Gandhi, 48, of the Congress party, the scion of India's famed Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

The rival parties have thrown almost daily barbs at each other, with accusations of corruption, nepotism and fake nationalism.

As in previous elections, this year's polling has been marked by violence, most recently in West Bengal state where tens of thousands of security forces were deployed following street clashes between BJP and rival supporters of the regional Trinamool Congress party.

The lengthy campaign has also seen a flood of "fake news", including photoshopped images and edited video clips, with both main parties using legions of people to manage their social media platforms.

"The likelihood that the ruling BJP wins a majority by itself is falling (10 per cent, from 15 per cent previously)," Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said in a report on Friday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 19, 2019, with the headline 'PM Modi taking meditation break as mega polls close'. Print Edition | Subscribe