India’s Holy City Set to Bless Modi With a Third Straight Win in Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Each day, Bloomberg journalists take you across a selection of towns and cities as they gear up for the big vote.

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Hi I’m Siddhartha Singh. Based in New Delhi, I report on India’s finance ministry. However, my roots are in Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, and the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The ancient city, situated on the banks of the river Ganga, handed over landslide victories to Modi in the last two national elections. It’s widely expected that the third one may not be any different. Notwithstanding local discontent over destruction of some ancient shrines during a massive renovation drive around the historic Kashi Vishwanath temple, Modi holds the edge. More so, after fulfilling his Bharatiya Janata Party’s controversial and long-held pledge of building the Ram temple on the site of a demolished mosque in Ayodhya, about 200-kilometers north. Extremist Hindu groups want the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi to be similarly removed. Modi has drawn some flak for his increasingly polarizing speeches during the ongoing seven-phase elections. Still, he remains extremely popular and a united opposition, or the widespread angst over rising inflation and unemployment, are unlikely to dent his votes in Varanasi.

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India will likely report economic growth of close to 8% in the fiscal year that ended in March, providing a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government as elections come to a close.

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Campaign Trail

Election officials are headed to their respective polling stations for the final phase of India’s seven-stage national election. Voting for 57 seats in the parliament will be held on Saturday.

Modi reached the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to meditate for two days, after campaigning for the election ended.

Global Media

The Associated Press reported that while India’s economy has done well under Modi, there are cracks in the facade, including high unemployment and persistent poverty.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about how the divide between a politically powerful north and an economically powerful south has become a potent fault line during the national election.

Who Votes This Week?

India’s mammoth election runs through June 1, with counting scheduled for June 4. This map from the Election Commission of India shows which constituencies vote when.

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This story was produced with the assistance of Bloomberg Automation.

--With assistance from Eshani Mathur.

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