Cheering crowds greeted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday as he submitted his candidacy for a Hindu holy city’s parliamentary seat in a general election his party is strongly favoured to win.
Modi remains roundly popular in India, in large part due to his cultivated image as an aggressive champion of the country’s majority faith.
Varanasi is the spiritual capital of Hinduism, where devotees from around India come to cremate deceased loved ones by the Ganges river, and the premier has represented the city since sweeping to power a decade ago.
“I swear on God... I will have faith and allegiance to India’s constitution,” Modi said before handing over the paperwork to an election registrar, flanked by a Hindu mystic dressed in a loincloth.
Hundreds of supporters had gathered to applaud Modi outside the local government office where he lodged his nomination, at the end of a two-day campaign stop packed with numerous public displays of worship.
Modi waved to the gathered crowd after emerging from the office before leaving with his entourage, made up of senior figures from his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“The amazing love and blessings I have received from all of you in the last 10 years have inspired me to work with a constant spirit of service and full determination,” Modi wrote afterwards in a post on social media platform X.
The 73-year-old premier, who has made acts of religious devotion a fixture of his premiership, had spent the morning visiting temples and offering prayers at the banks of the Ganges.
The ascent of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist politics despite India’s officially secular constitution has made Muslims in the country increasingly anxious.
“We are made to feel as if we are not wanted in this country,” Shauqat Mohamed, who runs a tea shop in the city, told AFP.
“If the country’s premier speaks of us in disparaging terms, what else can we expect?” the 41-year-old added.
“We have to accept our fate and move on.”
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