VARANASI, May 12, 2014 (AFP) – Voters headed to the polls Monday in the climax of India’s marathon election, with frontrunner Narendra Modi seeking a crowning victory in the holy city of Varanasi for his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. “People are tired of false promises, corruption and the same old tape-recorded messages,” Modi said in a blog after campaigning officially ended on Saturday night.
Rahul Gandhi, who has headed a lacklustre Congress campaign, has denied that his party is staring at almost certain defeat.
Modi, the son of a tea-stall owner who rose through the BJP ranks, has derided his opponent, the scion of the Gandhi dynasty which has produced three prime ministers, as a reluctant “shehzada” (prince).
Beleaguered Gandhi and other Congress leaders have hit back, accusing Modi of being dangerously divisive and prejudiced against the country’s 150-million strong Muslim minority.
“I am confident that the voters will give a mandate to an inclusive, fair and unifying (Congress) government,” Gandhi said in an interview to the Hindi-language Hindustan newspaper.
There are 41 seats up for grabs on Monday in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, and the neighbouring states of Bihar and West Bengal.