India’s Narendra Modi received a hero’s welcome from thousands of orange-clad supporters as he launched his election campaign on Thursday in the religious city of Varanasi, a show of strength for the Hindu nationalist tipped to be prime minister.
India is halfway through the world’s largest-ever election, in which 815 million people are eligible to vote over 10 stages. Modi will stand for the parliamentary seat of the Ganges river city of Varanasi on May 12, four days before results are due.
One of the world’s oldest inhabited cities and a center for Hindus who come to wash away their sins in the sacred river, Varanasi should give Modi an easy win.
But with a sizeable Muslim community and multiple Hindu castes, the city and surrounding region will test whether he can rise above divisions that have held back his party in the past.