Modi Files Papers to Contest Election From Holy City of Varanasi

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi filed his nomination papers to contest elections from Varanasi, a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh steeped in religious significance for the country’s Hindu majority.

“It is an honour to serve the people of this historic seat,” Modi said in a post on social media platform X after the filing. “With the blessings of the people, there have been remarkable achievements over the last decade. This pace of work will get even faster in the times to come.”

Modi presented his papers on Tuesday at the local magistrate’s office, accompanied by Yogi Adityanath, the former Hindu monk and now chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Before filing his nomination, Modi performed traditional prayers on the banks of the Ganges River, which runs along the city and is considered holy to Hindus.

In India’s six-week election, which runs until June 1, voters are choosing candidates for the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. Modi has contested the Varanasi constituency in the past two elections and won comfortably. He’s now seeking to extend his decade in power by another five years.

On Monday, Modi traveled through the streets of Varanasi in an open vehicle alongside Adityanath, both men dressed in the saffron colors of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and waving to throngs of supporters.

Modi has used a mix of religious sentiment and economic measures to boost his appeal among voters. Opposition parties and activists, though, say his Hindu nationalist agenda has marginalized religious minorities, especially Muslims. Hindus make up about 80% of the country’s 1.4 billion population.

In January, Modi inaugurated the controversial Ram temple on the site of a demolished mosque in Uttar Pradesh, fulfilling a long-held pledge made by the ruling BJP. Varanasi is also the location of the Gyanvapi mosque, which Hindu groups want removed because they say it was built on the site where a Hindu temple once stood.

India’s marathon seven-phase election has been marred by an acrimonious campaign between the main political parties, and reports of low voter turnout. The BJP faces an alliance of more than 20 opposition parties, the largest of which is the Indian National Congress.

Voting has already taken place in more than 300 constituencies. Results are expected on June 4.

(Updates with fresh comment from Modi in second paragraph.)

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