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Sat. May 25th, 2024

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.

“It’s our good fortune that Modi represents our constituency of Varanasi,” devout Hindu Jitendra Singh Kumar, a 52-year-old farmer, told AFP while waiting to catch a glimpse of the leader.

“He is like a God to people of Varanasi. He thinks about the country first, unlike other politicians.”

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. 

Tens of thousands of supporters had lined the streets of Varanasi to greet Modi as he arrived in the city on Monday, waving to the crowd from atop a flatbed truck as loudspeakers blared devotional songs. 

Many along the roadside waved saffron-coloured flags bearing the lotus flower emblem of the BJP, throwing marigold flowers at the procession as it passed by.

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