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News / Nation & World

India votes in third phase of elections

Modi ramps up rhetoric targeting Muslim minority

By Associated Press
Published: May 7, 2024, 8:52pm
3 Photos
People stand in queue to vote during the third round of voting in the six-week-long general election in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.
People stand in queue to vote during the third round of voting in the six-week-long general election in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) Photo Gallery

NEW DELH — Millions of Indian voters across 93 constituencies were casting ballots on Tuesday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi mounted an increasingly shrill election campaign, ramping up polarizing rhetoric in incendiary speeches that have targeted the Muslim minority.

In recent campaign rallies, Modi has called Muslims “infiltrators” and said they “have too many children,” referring to a Hindu nationalist trope that Muslims produce more children with the aim of outnumbering Hindus in India. He has also accused the rival Indian National Congress party of scheming to “loot” wealth from the country’s Hindus and redistribute it among Muslims, who comprise 14 percent of India’s more than 1.4 billion people.

Tuesday’s polling in the third round of multiphase national elections has crucial seats up for grabs in states including Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Most polls predict a win for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, which is up against a broad opposition alliance led by the Congress and powerful regional parties. The staggered election will run until June 1 and votes will be counted on June 4.

Modi, who voted in western Ahmedabad city on Tuesday, had kicked off his campaign with a focus on economic progress, promising he would make India a developed nation by 2047. But in recent weeks, he and the ruling BJP have doubled down heavily on their Hindu nationalism platform, with Modi employing some of his most divisive rhetoric in his decade in power.

Analysts say the change in tone comes as the BJP aims to clinch a supermajority or two-thirds of the 543 seats up for grabs in India’s lower Parliament by consolidating votes among the majority Hindu population, who make up 80 percent. They say Modi’s party is also ratcheting up polarizing speeches to distract voters from larger issues, like unemployment and economic distress.

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