Polls close in Indian election seen as referendum on Modi’s decade in power

India's marathon election drew to a close Saturday six weeks after voting began, with voters enduring a scorching heatwave to cast their ballots in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has long been widely expected to win a third term when results are announced Tuesday, in large part due to his cultivated image as an aggressive champion of India's majority faith.

Exit polls -- though historically unreliable at capturing voter shifts in an election with 968 million eligible voters -- are expected to give some initial indication of whether he has succeeded later on Saturday night.

Many in the 73-year-old premier's constituency of Varanasi were eager for that to be the case.

"I voted for growth and development of my country," local resident Brijesh Taksali told AFP outside a polling station.

"There's only one leader that I know... Narendra Modi. I voted for him."

Varanasi is the spiritual capital of the Hindu faith, where devotees from around India come to cremate deceased loved ones by the Ganges river.

It is one of the final cities to vote in India's gruelling election, and where public support for Modi's ever-closer alignment of religion and politics burns brightest.

Modi has already led the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to two landslide victories in 2014 and 2019, forged in large part by his appeal to the Hindu faithful.

'Politics of temples'


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