India's Modi casts his vote as giant election reaches half-way mark

Prime Minister Narendra Modi voted early on Tuesday, as India held the third phase of a massive general election, and called for a strong turnout, though warning of the scorching summer heat.

The world's most populous nation began voting on 19 April in a seven-phase election.

Nearly one billion people are eligible to vote, with ballots set to be counted on 4 June.

Modi is seeking a rare, third straight term in a vote which pits his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of more than two dozen opposition parties. Surveys suggest he will win a comfortable majority.

"I urge all citizens to vote in large numbers and celebrate the festival of democracy. To all those working in the heat, I urge you to take care of your health and drink adequate water," he said shortly after voting in his home state of Gujarat.

Ongoing campaign

Modi cast his ballot in the Gandhinagar constituency where his number two, Home Minister Amit Shah, is the BJP candidate.

Clad in saffron and white, Modi was surrounded by hundreds of supporters and party members, signing autographs and talking to children on the way to the polling booth.

Modi's campaign began by showcasing his economic record, welfare measures, national pride and personal popularity.

But it changed tack after the first phase of voting on 19 April and focused more on firing up BJP's Hindu base by attacking rivals as pro-Muslim, even as surveys say jobs and inflation are the main concerns of voters.

(with Reuters)

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