TIME Afghanistan

Over 2,100 Reportedly Dead in Afghanistan Landslide

Approximately 24 hours after 2 landslides buried over 2000 residents of Argo district in the mountainous northeastern state of Badakhshan under hundreds of feet of mud. The first landslide buried some 300 homes and those who had been inside or on the streets at the time as well as those attending a wedding party. The second landslide struck as villagers attempted to rescue those trapped - digging with shovels and their bare hands. Today - Saturday - rescuers called off a search for survivors due to a lack of heavy machinery required for the massive task, however, some men continued to dig about above where there homes had once been. Mohammad Karim Khalili, one of Afghanistan’s two Vice Presidents along with a handful of ministers travelled from Kabul to pay their respects at the site of the landslide today. Saturday 3 May, 2014. Photo by Andrew Quilty / Oculi for TIME.
The search for survivors in the Argo district was hampered by poor weather and insufficient tools, May 3, 2014. Andrew Quilty—Oculi for TIME

Rescuers have called off the search in the mountainous Argo district after at least 2,100 villagers were buried under hundreds of feet of mud. They are now focusing on helping the estimated 4,000 people displaced by the disaster

The death toll of a catastrophic landslide in a remote part of Afghanistan reportedly rose to at least 2,100 on Saturday, after a rescue effort slowed by lack of equipment and bad conditions.

Rescuers called off a search in the mountainous Argo district of the northeastern state of Badakhshan after over 2,000 villagers were buried under hundreds of feet of mud, Reuters reports, and turned their attention to the estimated 4,000 displaced by the disaster.

“More than 2,100 people from 300 families are all dead,” Naweed Forotan, a spokesman for Badakhshan’s provincial governor, told Reuters.

Two consecutive landslides took place on Friday morning after the area had been pummeled by heavy rains all week, according to the United Nations. The organization said that in addition to the mounting loss of life, the landslide had caused widespread damage to property and agriculture in the district. Badakhshan, a mountainous province in the far northeast of the country, borders Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

Local officials had warned that the search for survivors and bodies would be slow, given the lack of equipment on hand in the far-flung district. Rescuers themselves faced a third potential landslide as they set to manually trying dig through the some 330 feet of mud.

With scores assumed dead, the U.N. mission in Afghanistan was said to have shifted its attention to at least 4,000 people forced to leave their homes, either directly due to Friday’s landslide or as a precautionary measure against future landslides.

The operation will test the capacity of Afghan security forces, which were deployed to the area to assist on Friday, according to reports. President Hamid Karzai, who is set to step down in the next few months once a new government is formed, said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened,” and that he had “ordered relevant entities to provide immediate assistance to people affected by the natural disaster and to urgently rescue those who are trapped under the debris.”

President Barack Obama, offering his condolences to the victims and their families during a press conference on Friday, said the U.S. was ready to help if requested. “Even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure,” Obama said. “We stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster.”

The disaster follows close on the heels of deadly flash floods in northern Afghanistan that left over 100 dead and displaced thousands more. “On behalf of the UN humanitarian agencies, I wish to extend our condolences to all those families who have lost loved ones as a result of these landslides,” Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a UN news release. “There have now been more Afghans killed through natural disasters in the past seven days than all of 2013.”

TIME India

At Least 11 Killed in Assam Attacks

Opinion is divided on whether the violence is linked to India's ongoing legislative elections

At least 11 people have been killed in two attacks in the northeastern state of Assam, a few weeks after the state wrapped up its three-phase vote. Local police told the BBC they suspect a separatist rebel group of targeting and killing members of the area’s Muslim community in the May 1 violence. They have also said, however, that the bloodshed was not connected to the national elections under way.

Tensions between the ethnic Bodo group and minorities in Assam have been churning for years. In 2012, large riots broke out between the two groups, in which dozens of people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The Bodo community and minority communities, including Muslims, have been competing for increasingly scarce resources and land. The National Democratic Front of Bodoland, a separatist group fighting for an independent homeland, has already staged several violent and nonviolent actions this year, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Despite police statements to the contrary, some residents told the media that they believe yesterday’s attacks were due to the fact that rebels believed the victims had voted for non-Bodo candidates. Assam went to the polls in three separate phases on April 7, 12 and 24. Residents living in the area of the attack voted in the last phase. One policeman was killed, and two were injured on that polling day.

The May 1 attacks came the same day that two bomb blasts terrified passengers on an early morning train in the southern city of Chennai, killing one young woman and injuring several others. Though the incident was quick to be politicized, authorities gave no immediate evidence that the incident was connected to the elections. Chennai also voted on April 24.

Even with efforts in recent years to stamp out election-day turbulence in India, sporadic outbreaks of violence have punctuated a largely peaceful vote. On April 30, police killed a protester as voting was under way in Kashmir. On April 24, at least three election officials and five police were killed in a suspected Maoist attack on voting day in Jharkhand.

TIME India

Mixed Feelings on Polling Day for the Indian Elections in Modi’s Home State

Narendra Modi
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, displays the victory symbol to supporters after casting his vote in Ahmedabad, India, on April 30, 2014 Ajit Solanki—AP

Supporters of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat state, are confident of victory. Even those fiercely opposed to him remain disillusioned with the incumbent Congress Party and crave change

When will politicians learn to beware of the selfie? Like others before him, Narendra Modi’s dalliance with the social-media favorite seemingly backfired on Wednesday, polling day in his home state of Gujarat. After the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime-ministerial candidate emerged from casting his vote in Ahmedabad, photographers clicked as Modi took a selfie with his inked finger and the BJP symbol, the lotus. But displaying a party symbol in an active polling area is an election no-no — as was, apparently, Modi’s address to reporters that followed. India’s Election Commission quickly requested that Gujarat open an investigation into its chief minister for violating election code of conduct for attempting to influence voters on voting day.

Still, Modi supporters in Ahmedabad were confident that they would soon see their candidate in the Prime Minister’s seat. In the national elections under way in India, voters across Gujarat went to the polls on April 30 to vote in the state’s next group of 26 lawmakers in Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament. Modi is standing for one of the seats in the city of Vadodara, in addition to a seat in the holy city of Varanasi, where voting takes place in the coming weeks. “Modi is the king of Gujarat,” says Sachin Patel, a 26-year-old BJP volunteer at the Nishan School polling station. “After this election, I hope he’ll be the king of India. We need him.”

Not everyone in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s biggest city, is so sure. Before elections, several opinion polls showed growing support for Modi and the BJP across the country, with many voters disenchanted with the past decade of a Congress-led government that has presided over multiple scandals and a weakened economy. Modi promises to change all that, bringing his model of Gujarat governance to the national stage, from streamlining bureaucracy to pulling in investment to improving the performance of welfare programs for the poor.

But despite the strong anti-incumbency mood, Modi remains a divisive figure for many. He was chief minister of Gujarat when bloody religious riots broke out in the state in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people, the majority of whom were Muslims, were killed. Many in Ahmedabad’s Muslim neighborhoods continue to hold Modi’s administration accountable for what happened to their community, though he has always strongly denied any involvement, and Indian courts have cleared him of any wrongdoing.

The BJP has downplayed that history — and their candidate’s Hindu-nationalist roots — in its campaign. But the question of secularism remains a hot-button election issue, with recent anti-Muslim comments by some of Modi’s associates again stirring up concerns across the country. In Ahmedabad, some say those concerns are valid, and believe the BJP-led government has perpetuated an anti-Muslim climate since the riots. “They create a sense of insecurity in the [Hindu] majority,” says Waqar Qazi, who lives in Juhapura, a Muslim area of the city. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a new political party whose leader, Arvind Kejriwal, is running against Modi in Varanasi, has also been campaigning as an alternative in Gujarat in the run-up to the polls. But for most Muslim voters, Qazi says, the choice is about what party has the best chance of preventing the BJP from coming to power in New Delhi. “Congress has failed to be a strong opposition,” Qazi says. “But it’s still the best choice.”

The Modi government says Muslims in Gujarat have prospered along with the rest of the state. The chief minister’s supporters agree. “Even Muslim people say they are safer in Gujarat today than they would be in other parts of India,” says Amar Dave, a retiree who voted at the same polling station as Modi. In Saheb Nagar, a small colony built for Muslim families whose homes were destroyed in the riots, residents say they do enjoy a bubble of security within the confines of their community. But they also feel left out of the new prosperity that other Gujaratis around them seem to be enjoying.

Here, Modi’s high-octane road show, selfies and all, feels like it’s happening in a different city, and not just a few kilometers away. For the residents of the Saheb Nagar colony, the vote is less about who can defeat the BJP and more about who can fix the local drainage system and get rid of the large, deep pool of raw sewage water at the entrance to their community. “Congress hasn’t done anything for us for the last 12 years either,” says Nasim Banu, a 40-year-old mother of four whose family was displaced in the 2002 riots. She throws an arm toward the fetid pool of water. For years she has voted for Congress in principle, as an alternative to the BJP. But today she cast her vote for AAP, the only group she thinks has a chance of bringing real change. “We trusted Congress and they disappointed us. Now we’ll try trusting AAP.”

TIME India

Priyanka Gandhi Takes Center Stage in Latest Congress-BJP Spat

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during a road-show campaign for her mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in Raebareli, India, on April 23, 2014
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during a road-show campaign for her mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in Raebareli, India, on April 23, 2014 Sunit Kumar—Hindustan Times/Getty Images

With less than three weeks to go until the national elections end, the formidable campaigner has been drawn into the spotlight by opposition claims about her husband's business dealings

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra found herself in the eye of India’s latest political storm Monday, as the country’s national elections enter their final few weeks.

Priyanka has played a more behind-the-scenes role on India’s political stage of late, choosing to lend her respected campaigning skills to the political careers of her brother, Congress Party vice president Rahul Gandhi, and her mother, Sonia, the party’s president. But since Priyanka jumped into the fray last week to defend her businessman husband from attacks by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), she has found herself front and center of an intensifying Congress-BJP smackdown.

The opposition has been alleging wrongdoing in Robert Vadra’s business practices for some time, but the BJP has recently sharpened its attack. Earlier this month, local media reported a senior BJP leader threatening to jail the entrepreneur if the opposition were to come to power. Priyanka broke her silence on the matter last week in an appeal to voters, saying her husband has been used in political attacks and that she was “deeply saddened” by the way that campaigns are being run this election cycle.

The opposition did not let the matter rest. On Sunday, the party released a pamphlet and video alleging that Priyanka’s husband used his connections to the Gandhi family to make money in various land deals. Dubbing it the “Vadra ‘get-rich-quick’ model,” the document calls Congress-led state governments “vassals” of the Gandhi-Vadra family, and demands that Sonia and Rahul “come clean” on their in-law’s business transactions.

Congress has called the allegations baseless, and Priyanka again shot back, comparing the opposition to rats scurrying around in a panic. The BJP’s senior leader Arun Jaitley responded by writing on his blog that her language had “lowered the quality of political discourse” in India.

Few would argue any of this marks a high point in political discourse. The question is: What might it mean for the elections? To some, the spectacle of Priyanka going head-to-head with the BJP over her husband’s record seems like the death rattle of Congress’ mismanaged campaign. Hasan Suroor argues on Firstpost.com that by letting a strong campaigner like Priyanka loose on the issue, the party has “allowed the BJP to make Robert Vadra the symbol of all Gandhi family misdoing.”

But nobody’s coming out of the spat looking great. One might assume that the BJP, whose leaders say they are confident of a big win come May 16, would be spending their time on loftier campaigning points days before their prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi stands for election in the hot spot of Varanasi. Some argue the BJP’s outsize response highlights the fact that Priyanka has put the opposition on the defensive. In any case, the accusations feel like another tired swing in an old grudge match. For a party that has been promising change, the BJP’s tactics at this stage seem to belie either insecurity or an internal unwillingness to focus on meatier election issues. Neither is a comforting prospect.

TIME India

Mumbai’s Election Turnout: Better, but Not Great

Voting For Sixth Phase Of Lok Sabha Polls
A first time voter showing ink stained fingers after casting his vote in the Lok Sabha polls on April 24, 2014 in Mumbai, India. Hindustan Times—Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Early estimates say 52% of voters showed up at polling booths in India's commercial capital yesterday. That's an improvement over 2009 figures but still low compared with other parts of the country

Rachna Kedia knocks on her neighbor’s front door in an apartment building in Malabar Hill, a posh enclave in south Mumbai. A man opens and raises his eyebrows in mock alarm. “I’m going! I’m going!” he says. “What about the rest of the family?” Kedia asks. One by one, family members appear to assure the representative of Volunteer for a Better India (VBI) — an NGO promoting volunteerism — that they will be voting on April 24. “Obviously,” says another woman downstairs. “It’s our right, and we’re going to do it.”

As it turned out, only a slim majority of residents of India’s frenetic and charismatic financial capital broke out of their normally apathetic shell on Thursday and turned up to vote on a sweltering day. Early estimates of voter turnout across the city was about 52%, according to local reports.

That’s over 11% higher than the last national elections in 2009, but it still means that almost half of the voters in this city of 12 million shunned the polling booths. In recent months, volunteers like Kedia have been fanning out around town to try to turn Mumbai’s voting numbers around. “A lot of awareness has happened, but a lot still needs to happen,” she says. In the run-up to the vote, organizations like VBI (an offshoot of the Art of Living Foundation), India First, a local grassroots group, and the IndiaVoting Coalition focused on getting out the vote of corporate workers nationally. They also joined up with political parties to help register voters and encouraged them to show up at the polls.

Companies like Reliance and ICICI bank participated in drives to get their employees to the polls too. Hitesh Barot, who heads the IndiaVoting Coalition, says that with parties focused on courting votes in traditional vote banks like slums, legions of corporate employees in cities like Mumbai were left out of the registration drive. “White collar Indians have not been viewed as a voting block and are left to fend for themselves.”

Even if Mumbai’s turnout was low compared with other parts of the country, the intense national interest in this election helped beat 2009’s anemic numbers. The closely watched showdown between the incumbent Congress Party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in Mumbai is partnered with the powerful local party Shiv Sena, has captivated people around the country.

It’s too soon to say what that means for the candidates duking it out for the city’s six seats in Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament. (Results are expected on May 16.) In 2009, riding the wave of high economic growth at the time, the incumbent Congress Party swept the polls. This year the verdict is less certain. Muslims, who make up some 20% of eligible voters, according to the State Minorities Commission, may be galvanized to defeat the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat during a 2002 wave of religious riots in which over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

In Dharavi, a slum in south Mumbai, Ansar Khan, a Muslim tailor, says that recent anti-Muslim comments from the BJP’s associates have made him freshly apprehensive about a BJP-led government in New Delhi. “The Muslim community does not vote in a block, but when you hear these speeches, what am I supposed to think?” asks Khan, 52, referring to alleged comments by Hindu-nationalist leader Pravin Togadia on driving Muslims out of Hindu neighborhoods. “Aren’t we supposed to be worried?”

BJP–Shiv Sena supporters meanwhile say a bigger turnout in Mumbai is a clear demonstration of people’s weariness of Congress, which has been in power nationally since 2004. In Banganga, a narrow, winding neighborhood on Malabar Hill, Mihika Ronish and her brother have just voted for the first time because, she says, they are fed up. “I think Congress has literally made India hit rock bottom,” Ronish, 27, said on voting day. She cast her vote with the BJP-Sena alliance, as has her brother, mother and father, who all came to vote together. “I know so many people who are going and voting for the first time today,” she says.

Yesterday’s vote was not without incident. Local media reported that thousands of voters were left off the voter lists at polling stations, unable to vote. In the past four years, election officials’ efforts to clean up the rosters have led to the deletion of hundreds of thousands of voters who were identified as dead, relocated or otherwise wrongly listed in their polling district. Despite officials ongoing efforts to inform voters about the deletions by radio and newspaper, many were caught off guard. “Nobody bothered to see whether their name was deleted,” says Maya Patole, an election official in south Mumbai. “Now suddenly they’re saying, ‘My name is not there.’”

But millions more have simply slipped through the cracks. Yesterday’s turnout was still low compared with other parts of the country, where turnout has been over 70%. On a busy side street in east Bandra, where hundreds of day laborers gather and wait to get picked up for work, Rupesh Srivas said he was registered but wouldn’t vote. “There is no sense in it,” says the 24-year-old mason. “If someone was thinking about our future, it would make sense for me to vote. But nobody is thinking about us, so what’s the point?”

 

TIME TIME 100

Indian Politicians Are Dominating the TIME 100 Poll

From right: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia address a news conference on Feb. 11, 2014 in New Delhi.
From right: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia address a news conference on Feb. 11, 2014 in New Delhi. Raj K. Raj—Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal leads the pack as Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate for Prime Minister, clamors to edge past pop star Katy Perry in second and give Kejriwal a run for his money

With some three weeks left in the nation’s marathon election, Indian politicians are dominating the top of TIME’s poll to determine the 100 most influential people in the world. As of Monday evening in New Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal was leading the poll with the highest percentage of “yes” votes, followed by pop star Katy Perry in second, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate for prime minister Narendra Modi in third.

The power of Modi’s polarization was on also display in the poll, which is not, for the record, any reflection of how voting is going in India. At of Monday evening, about 213,000 people had cast a “yes” or “no” vote for Arvind Kejriwal, while more than 431,000 had voted online for Modi. Modi had a greater percentage of “no” votes than any other influential in the running, beating out both Katy Perry and Justin Bieber for naysayers.

Each year, TIME publishes an editor-curated list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Before the issue comes out, TIME runs an online poll where readers can cast their vote for to where politicians, actors, musicians and athletes should rank on the list.

The top of the poll has otherwise been dominated by the entertainment industry figures. After Kejriwal and Modi, Egyptian military commander Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was the next world figure on the list, ranking No. 13 in percentage of “yes” votes. Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi, with about 37,000 reactions, ranked much lower on the list, after Kim Kardashian and Megan Ellison. Voting closed April 22 and the winner of the online poll will be announced on April 23.

Cast your vote in these categories: World, U.S. Politics, Business & Tech, Culture & Fashion, Movies & TV, Music, Media, and Sports.

TIME India

Indian Election Favorite Modi Denies Shying Away From Gujarat Riots Issue

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi rides in an open jeep on his way to file nomination papers on April 9, 2014 in Vadodra, India Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

In 2002, more than 1,000 people were killed in sectarian riots that swept the western Indian state of Gujarat, where Narendra Modi was and still is chief minister. Twelve years on, as he bids to become prime minister, the accusations of complicity keep coming

Prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has denied keeping quiet over the violent riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002. “I was not silent,” the candidate for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told Asian News International (ANI) in an April 16 interview. “I have said what I had to say. Now, I am in the people’s court, and I am waiting to hear from them, and their verdict.”

For years, Modi’s rise through India’s political ranks has been shadowed by communal violence that took place during his first year as the chief minister of Gujarat, a post he continues to hold today. In 2002, more than 1,000 people were killed in riots that swept the western Indian state. The majority of the victims were Muslim. Though many have accused Modi, as chief minister, of not doing enough to stop the violence, Indian courts have never found him criminally culpable, and have cleared him of any wrongdoing.

In the dozen years since, Modi’s reputation for effective administration and good economic management have helped put him where he is today: at the helm of the national party that polls suggest will have the strongest performance this election. Many give Modi direct credit for the BJP’s momentum over the past few months. But he continues to face questions about not apologizing for the riots, or to speak during the campaign at greater length about a difficult and polarizing period of India’s recent history. In response to a recent demand from the ruling Congress Party that he apologize, Modi told a local television station that Congress should “account for their own sins first,” according to NDTV.

Modi has said that he was shaken by the violence that took place during his early days in office. In a July interview with Reuters, Modi’s response to whether he regretted the 2002 violence made waves when he compared his feeling for the loss of life to being a passenger when somebody runs over a puppy on the road. “If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being,” he said. “If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”

Modi told ANI this week that he has given up discussing the riots with the media. (In the past, he has walked out of an interview when pressed on the subject.) “I answered every top journalist in the country from 2002-2007, but noticed there was no exercise to understand truth,” he said. He also suggested that the media’s negative attention has, in fact, given his career a boost: “If the media had not worked to malign Modi,” he said, “Then who would known about Modi today?”

TIME India

Sonia Gandhi to Indian Voters: Don’t Fall for ‘Divisive’ Politics

Gandhi Chief of India's ruling Congress party holds her party's election manifesto in New Delhi
Sonia Gandhi, leader of the governing Congress Party, holds her party's manifesto for the 2014 general elections. She said Congress was fighting for the "heart and soul" of India Adnan Abidi—Reuters

In an unusual move, Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi has slammed the opposition for being "clouded with hatred and falsehood." Her remarks come in the wake of polls suggesting that the BJP will win enough seats to form a government

As the second week of India’s elections got under way, Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi lashed out indirectly at the opposition, saying that it was driven by a “divisive and autocratic” ideology that threatened the future of India.

In a three-minute television address, the 67-year-old party leader did not name the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, but told voters that the incumbent Congress Party was fighting for the “heart and soul” of India during the elections.

The opposition’s vision was “clouded with hatred and falsehood, their ideology, divisive and autocratic, will drive us to … ruination,” she said, according to an English-language translation on Firstpost.com.

The BJP was quick to dismiss Gandhi’s message. “She wants to give power to the people but did not give power to the Prime Minister,” a BJP spokesperson told Reuters, referring to the oft-repeated allegation that Gandhi has been the controlling force behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in recent years.

Gandhi made the address as the latest opinion poll by news channel NDTV showed the BJP and its allies might pass the crucial mark of 272 seats in the ongoing parliamentary elections to win the majority needed in India’s lower house needed to form a government.

Elections began on April 7 and will take place in nine phases over the next several weeks, with poll results expected on May 16.

TIME India

A New Poll Suggests the BJP Coalition Will Win India’s Elections

India Elections
A worker arranges election material featuring the likeness of the opposition BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. A new poll suggests the BJP coalition would win a slim majority in the 2014 elections Ajit Solanki—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The main opposition party and its allies could win a small majority of legislative seats in India's upcoming elections, the survey finds, with the BJP buoyed by the rising popularity of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi

A new opinion poll by Indian news group NDTV suggests that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies could win the majority of legislative seats in national elections that are now underway.

Over 800 million Indians are eligible to vote in a new Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament. The polls started on April 7 and are taking place in nine phases over a five-week period, with results expected May 16.

The latest NDTV poll suggests that the BJP and its allies are slated to pass the crucial 272 mark and win 275 legislative seats — a very narrow majority in the 543-seat legislative body, but still enough of a lead to give the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition the mandate to govern without the support of powerful regional parties.

The BJP, which has been in opposition since the center-right National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition lost power in 2004, is widely seen as benefiting from the rising popularity of its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who led a strong campaign in the run-up to the vote.

Despite the strong anti-incumbency mood in the nation, Modi remains a controversial figure in many sectors of Indian society, having been chief minister of the western state of Gujarat when violent anti-Muslim riots broke out on his watch. Many analysts have predicted that the Hindu nationalist party and its allies would not get a clear majority needed to go it alone.

Then again, two years ago many in liberal India in particular would not have predicted Modi would be this close to the prime minister’s seat. The NDTV poll suggests this could be the BJP’s strongest showing in decades, and conversely suggests that this could be the ruling Congress Party’s worst performance yet.

But the vote is far from over, and opinion polls have been wrong before. In 2004, when the then-incumbent BJP ran its miscalculated “India Shining” campaign, polls favored the NDA to win, but it was defeated by the Congress, which has been at the helm of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition for the last ten years.

 

 

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