Boat capsizes in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing at least 4

SRINAGAR, India — A boat carrying a group of people capsized in a river in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Tuesday, drowning four of them, news agency Press Trust of India reported.

The boat capsized in Jhelum river near Srinagar, the region’s main city. Most of the passengers were children, and rescuers were searching for many others who were still missing.

Heavy rains fell over the region in the past few days, leading to higher water levels in the river.

Boating accidents are common in India, where many vessels are overcrowded and have inadequate safety equipment.

Last year, 22 people drowned when a double-decker boat carrying more than 30 passengers capsized near a beach in Kerala state in southern India.

In May 2018, 30 people died when their boat capsized on the swollen Godavari River in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

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Pakistan investigates shooting death of suspect in 2013 killing of accused Indian spy

LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities are investigating the shooting death of a man who had been acquitted of killing accused Indian spy Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore prison in 2013, a police official said Sunday.

Pakistan has previously accused India’s intelligence agency of being involved in killings inside Pakistan, saying it had credible evidence linking two Indian agents to the deaths of two Pakistanis last year.

The man who died in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday was Amir Tamba. He was a suspect in the death of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national who was convicted of spying in Pakistan and handed a death sentence in 1991.

But Singh died in 2013 after inmates attacked him in a Lahore prison. His fate inflamed tensions between the two South Asian nuclear-armed rivals.

Tamba and a second man went on trial for Singh’s death but were acquitted in 2018 due to lack of evidence.

The deputy inspector general of police in Lahore, Ali Nasir Rizvi, said gunmen entered Tamba’s house and shot him. They fled the scene on a motorbike. Officials from Pakistan’s army and intelligence agency reached the site and removed Tamba’s body, taking it to the city’s Combined Military Hospital.

Rizvi said a case had been lodged against unidentified assailants but gave no further information about the case, including a possible motive for the attack.

There was slow coverage of Tamba’s death in Pakistan’s media. However, Indian outlets were quick to report on the shooting. There was no immediate comment from the Indian authorities.

Singh was arrested in 1990 for his role in a series of bombings in Lahore and Faisalabad that killed 14 people. His family said he was innocent.

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Heavy rains set off flash floods, killing 33 people in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD — Heavy flooding from seasonal rains in Afghanistan has killed at least 33 people and injured 27 others in three days, a Taliban spokesman said Sunday.

Abdullah Janan Saiq, the Taliban’s spokesman for the State Ministry for Natural Disaster Management, said Sunday that flash floods hit the capital, Kabul, and several other provinces across the country.

He added more than 600 houses were either partially or completely destroyed while around 200 livestock perished.

The flooding also damaged around 800 hectares of agricultural land, and more than 85 kilometers (53 miles) of roads, Saiq said.

Western Farah, Herat, southern Zabul and Kandahar are among the provinces that suffered the most damage, he added.

The weather department has warned that more rain is expected in the coming days in most of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

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India’s Modi vows to make country a manufacturing hub ahead of election

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday vowed to boost social spending, develop infrastructure and make India into a global manufacturing hub as companies shift away from China, as he unveiled his Hindu nationalist party’s election strategy.

Modi hopes to return to power for a third five-year term. He and other leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party unveiled their promises in the world’s largest democracy days before the start of a multi-phase general election.

Modi promised to expand social programs introduced during his party’s 10-year rule, including millions of free homes for the poor, along with health care, cooking gas and free grain. His government has been paying 6,000 rupees ($73) a year to poor farmers.

He said his government’s policies have pulled 250 million people out of poverty since he came to power in 2014. India is the world’s most populous country with over 1.4 billion people. The BJP’s president, J.P. Nadda, said less than 1% of Indian people now live in extreme poverty.

India holds its elections on different days in different parts of the country, stretching over weeks. Voting for the country’s parliament will begin on April 19 and run until June 1, and results will be announced on June 4.

Most polls have predicted a victory for Modi and the BJP. But the opposition Congress Party argues that Modi has undermined India’s democracy and favored the interests of the rich.

Modi has been campaigning extensively across the country, promising to expand India’s economy to $5 trillion by 2027 from around $3.7 trillion. He also promises to put India on track to become a developed country by 2047, when the country celebrates 100 years of independence from British colonialists.

On Sunday, he said his party would develop India as a hub for the pharmaceutical, energy, semiconductor and tourism industries. He also said India will modernize its infrastructure, including its railways, airways, and waterways. And he said he will seek to increase jobs for young people and access to cheap loans for young entrepreneurs.

Modi is broadly popular in India, where he’s considered a champion of the country’s Hindu majority and has overseen rapid economic growth.

But critics say another term for the BJP could undermine India’s status as a secular, democratic nation, saying its 10 years in power have brought attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country’s minorities, particularly Muslims, and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

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Pakistani police search for gunmen who abducted bus passengers, killed 10

QUETTA, Pakistan — Pakistani police are searching for gunmen who killed eight people after abducting them from a bus on a highway in the country’s southwest, a police official said Saturday. Earlier, the same attackers killed two people and wounded six in another car they forced to stop. 

According to the police official, the abduction took place on Friday in Baluchistan province, which has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists.  

Deputy Commissioner Habibullah Mosakhail said the gunmen set up a blockade, then stopped the bus and went through the passengers’ ID cards. They took eight people with them, all from the eastern Punjab province, fleeing into the mountains, he said. 

Police later recovered eight bodies under a bridge about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the highway. Earlier on Friday, the same gunmen had opened fire at a vehicle that failed to stop for their blockade, killing two and wounding six.  

A search for the perpetrators was underway, Mosakhail said. The bus was heading from the provincial capital of Quetta to Taftan, a town bordering Iran.  

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack, expressing his “deep sorrow and regret over this shocking incident.” He offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said he stood by them in their hour of grief, according to a statement from his office. 

“The perpetrators of this incident of terrorism and their facilitators will be punished,” Sharif said. 

Abductions are rare in Baluchistan, where militants usually target police forces and soldiers or infrastructure.  

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killings. Police said there was no ransom demand and no indication of a motive for the attacks. 

Although the government says it has quelled the insurgency, violence in the province has persisted. 

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Insurgents kidnap, kill 11 travelers in southwestern Pakistan

islamabad, pakistan — Police in southwestern Pakistan said Friday that separatist militants blocked a national highway linking the country to Iran, kidnapped 11 travelers and then shot them all to death.  


The deadly late-night violence occurred in the Noshki district of the sparsely populated Baluchistan province.  


Habibullah Musakhail, the district deputy commissioner, confirmed the incident, saying a search by police and paramilitary forces later recovered the victims’ bodies from under a bridge. He added that nine passengers of a bus were among those killed.  


Police said that about a dozen armed men had blocked the highway. After checking the national identification cards, the attackers stopped a bus and took nine passengers to the nearby mountains, where they were fatally shot. 


Authorities said that the slain bus passengers were traveling from the provincial capital of Quetta to the border town of Taftan. They were identified as residents of Pakistan’s most populous province of Punjab. The identities of the other victims were not known immediately. 


No one claimed responsibility for the Friday night killings in Baluchistan, which is rich in natural resources. Several ethnic Baluch outlawed groups are active in the province and routinely target security forces as well as settlers from other parts of Pakistan.  


The so-called Baluch Liberation Army, or BLA, has taken credit for plotting many of the recent attacks. 


Last month, BLA militants attacked a key Pakistan naval airbase and a government complex in Baluchistan within days of each other. The ensuing clashes killed several security force members and about a dozen assailants in both attacks.

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President Biden continues group diplomacy strategy

U.S. President Joe Biden this week welcomed the prime minister of Japan and the president of the Philippines to the White House to discuss security in the Indo-Pacific region. VOA Senior Washington Correspondent Carolyn Presutti compares Biden’s security policies with those of his 2024 presidential opponent Donald Trump.

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Poliovirus resurgence sparks concerns in Pakistan

Islamabad — The recent detection of poliovirus in sewage water samples collected across 30 districts in Pakistan has reignited concerns about a potential surge in polio cases.

Among those deeply troubled is Musal Khan, a polio survivor who navigates life in a wheelchair. Having represented Pakistan in wheelchair cricket at the global level, Musal Khan doesn’t want others to endure the same hardships he has faced.

Reflecting on his own experience, Khan, who contracted polio at age 2, told VOA, “My father didn’t permit polio vaccination for me, leading to a lifetime confined to a wheelchair.”

Khan urges all parents to give polio drops to their children and protect them from lifelong disabilities.

His father, Awal Khan, carries a heavy burden of guilt for his son’s condition. He joins Musal in urging parents not to obstruct polio workers and health officials from administering the vaccine to their children.

Polio, a highly contagious viral illness primarily affecting children under 5, spreads through feces, oral transmission or contaminated food and water. While incurable, it can be prevented through vaccination. Health experts warn that the poliovirus is a persistent presence in Pakistan, particularly in urban centers such as Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar.

Plan to eradicate polio

Shahzad Baig, the coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center, has outlined Pakistan’s goal of eradicating imported strains of the poliovirus, particularly those originating from neighboring Afghanistan, by the end of 2024.

To achieve this, he announced the implementation of eight comprehensive polio vaccination campaigns scheduled throughout the year.

Despite concerted efforts, the recent emergence of two polio cases in Chaman and Dera Bugti underscored the challenges facing Pakistan. Moreover, alarming findings from the analysis of more than 83 sewage water samples collected across 30 districts have revealed the presence of the virus.

Baig emphasized the importance of vaccination efforts considering these findings. He noted that even in areas where polio drops are administered, children remain susceptible to the virus due to deficiencies in the drainage infrastructure. Broken sewer lines contribute to the contamination of drinking water sources, facilitating the transmission of polio.

Baig stressed the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address not only vaccination coverage but also the improvement of sanitation infrastructure to prevent the spread of poliovirus.

This story originated in VOA’s Urdu Service.

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Taliban Facebook plan is attempt to silence critics, journalists say

washington — Plans by the Taliban to block access to Facebook are a further attempt to curtail freedom of speech and silence critics in Afghanistan, according to journalists and activists.

The proposal was announced by the Taliban’s acting minister of telecommunication and information technologies, Najibullah Haqqani.

In an interview with TOLO News, Haqqani said his ministry was preparing a policy “either to restrict or block” access to Facebook in Afghanistan.

Haqqani said that blocking the social media platform was “in the interest of the nation.” He added that because Afghan youth are too uneducated to use Facebook in a “positive way,” using it “is a waste of time and money.”

Afghan journalists and activists, however, see the proposal as an attempt to further curtail free expression and media freedoms.

The proposed policy is a continuation of the Taliban’s “repressive restrictions,” said one Kabul-based journalist, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. The journalist said that “by blocking Facebook, they [the Taliban] want to limit journalists from sharing news and information and silence activists and [government] critics.”

The journalist said that restrictions on social media would have negative impact. With news already being censored across the country, many people turn to Facebook for information, he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom group, said in a statement said that the Taliban’s plan “would further impede the free flow of information in the country.”

According to Statista, an online statistics database, Afghanistan has 3.15 million active social media users, and Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms. Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, social media platforms have been increasingly used by journalists and others to share information.

Facebook also fills a gap left by the closure of hundreds of news outlets. Since 2021, hundreds of media outlets have closed, said media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, and the Taliban have imposed repressive restrictions on independent media in the country.  

These include bans on transborder media, including VOA, its sister network RFE/RL and the BBC. The Taliban also issued media directives and ordered news outlets and journalists to coordinate with officials when preparing content and reporting on events.

But can the Taliban block social media?

It is technically possible to restrict or block Facebook, said Pervaiz Dostiyar, an information technology specialist, adding that the platform is banned in China and Iran.

“But it is difficult to ban Facebook since there are always ways to access the platform, such as using VPN,” or virtual private network, he added.

The Taliban have had a wide presence on some social media platforms, including X and WhatsApp.

Hamid Obaidi, a former journalism lecturer at Kabul University and the head of the Afghanistan Journalists Support Organization, told VOA that the Taliban have been using social media as the main channel for their “propaganda,” but now they want to restrict it for others.

Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has cracked down on the Taliban’s accounts.

Agence France-Presse earlier reported how Meta closed accounts labeled “Taliban” or “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and two of its state-run media groups. Meta said it was acting to comply with U.S. law that lists the Taliban as a “terrorist organization.”

Those fighting to protect rights in Afghanistan also rely heavily on the platforms.

“Activists use social media in their struggle against the Taliban. They are trying to curtail the protests against them,” said Obaidi, who is now in Germany.

Rahela Kaveer, an Afghan women’s rights activist in the U.S., told VOA that the Taliban’s proposal shows that the group is afraid of any information being shared.

“They want to silence voices raised against their crime that they committed against women in Afghanistan,” she said.

The rights organization Human Rights Watch has found that the Taliban “systematically violated the rights of women and girls” in Afghanistan.

Women are barred from secondary and university education, work and traveling long distances without a close male relative, and are even blocked from going to public parks and gyms.

Since the Taliban takeover, female activists have protested the repressive measures, often using social media to convey their message to the Afghan and international communities.

“They do not want the people and the world to know about the women’s situation in Afghanistan,” Kaveer said.

No further details have been provided about the proposed Facebook ban, and it is not clear when it will be reviewed or enacted.

Ehsanullah Aruobzai and Lina Rozbih from VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this report. This article originated in VOA’s Afghan Service. 

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Russia, Kazakhstan battle record floods as rivers rise

ORENBURG, Russia — The Russian city of Orenburg battled rising water levels on Thursday after major rivers across Russia and Kazakhstan burst their banks in the worst flooding seen in the areas in nearly a century.

The deluge of meltwater has forced over 110,000 people from their homes in Russia’s Ural Mountains, Siberia and Kazakhstan as major rivers such as the Ural, which flows through Kazakhstan into the Caspian, overwhelmed embankments.

Residents in the city of Orenburg said the waters of the Ural rose very swiftly and to far beyond breaking point, forcing them to flee with just their children, pets and a few belongings.

“It came very quickly at night,” Taisiya, 71, told Reuters in Orenburg, a city of 550,000 about 1,200 km (750 miles) east of Moscow. “By the time I got ready, I couldn’t get out.”

Whole areas of the city were underwater, and the Ural rose another 32 cm (13 inches) to 10.54 meters (34.6 feet), 124 cm (49 inches) above the level considered by local authorities as safe. Officials warned the river would rise further.

The flooding has struck Russia’s Urals and the northern Kazakhstan worst, though waters are also rising southern parts of Western Siberia, the largest hydrocarbon basin in the world, and in some places near the Volga, Europe’s biggest river.

Water levels were also rising in Siberia’s Tomsk, which sits on the Tom River, a tributary of the Ob, and in Kurgan, which straddles the Tobol River.

After the Ural burst through dam embankments in Orsk, upstream from Orenburg, on Friday, some residents expressed anger over how local officials had handled the situation, demanding greater compensation and begging for help from President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin said Putin was being updated regularly on the situation but had no current plans to visit the area while emergency services tried to deal with rising waters.

In Orenburg, some residents expressed disappointment that local officials had not done enough to prepare for the annual snow melt.

“There is a lot of excitement, indignation and strong emotions that I understand and share,” Orenburg Mayor Sergei Salmin said. “The issue of receiving compensation and the procedure for processing payments is one of the main ones.”

Snow melt

Spring flooding is a usual part of life across Russia — which has an area equal to the United States and Australia combined — as the heavy winter snows melt, swelling some of the mighty rivers of Russia and Central Asia.

This year, though, a combination of factors triggered unusually severe flooding, according to emergency workers.

They said soil was waterlogged before winter and then frozen under deep snow falls, which melted very fast in rising spring temperatures and heavy rains.

Climate researchers have long warned that rising temperatures could increase the incidence of extreme weather events, and that heavily forested Russia is of major importance in the global climate equation.

In Kurgan, a region which straddles the Tobol river, water levels rose in Zverinogolovkoye beyond the critical 10 metre (33 foot) mark, said Governor Vadim Shumkov who was shown visiting evacuated families.

Kazakhstan has been badly hit.

The emergencies ministry said on Thursday morning that the number of evacuees stood at over 97,000, unchanged from Wednesday, and a state of emergency remained in effect in eight regions of the country.

Emergency workers have removed 8.8 million cubic metres (310 million cubic feet) of water from flooded areas, the ministry said. The Kazakh government also said movement was restricted on hundreds of kilometers of roads in the Aktobe, Akmola, Atyrau, Kostanai, Mangistau and North Kazakhstan regions.

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Taliban leader stands firm on his Islamic governance in Afghanistan

Islamabad, Pakistan — The Taliban’s reclusive supreme leader ruled out any compromise Wednesday on his hardline Islamic governance in Afghanistan despite persistent global criticism and calls for him to end sweeping restrictions on women.

Hibatullah Akundzada addressed and led thousands of worshipers in Eid al-Fitr prayers at the central mosque in the southern city of Kandahar to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“If anyone has any issues with us, we are open to resolving them, but we will never compromise on our principles or Islam. At the same time, we expect that Islam will not be disrespected,” stated Akhundzada in his defiant Pashto-language speech aired by the state-run Afghan radio station.  “I will not take even a step away from the Islamic law.”

Akundzada was apparently responding to sustained criticism by the United Nations and Western countries of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam being used to govern impoverished Afghanistan, including the public flogging and stoning of women for committing adultery.

“I am administering God’s Hudud. They object to it, saying public stoning and hand-cutting are against their laws and human rights. You expect us to follow your laws while imposing them on us,” Akhundzada said. “Islam is a divine religion that deserves respect, but you insult it instead,” he added.

According to the Islamic religion, Hudud is the set of laws and punishments specified by god in the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

Akhundzada said countries that participated in the United States-led military invasion of Afghanistan were still targeting his country with “propaganda” and “evil tactics” to malign Taliban rule.

“They blame your leaders, claiming they are incapable of governing the country. Don’t let these infidels mislead you,” he said. “Stay vigilant and be mindful of their deceitful tactics. Their ultimate goal is to see us fail.”

The Taliban leader has suspended girls’ education in Afghanistan beyond the sixth grade and prohibited many women from public and private workplaces, including the United Nations and other aid organizations. Women are also forbidden from visiting public places such as parks, gyms, and bathhouses.

Akhundzada has defended his decrees, saying they are aligned with Afghan culture and Islam.

The Taliban returned to power in August 2021, when the then-internationally backed Afghan government collapsed, and U.S.-led Western nations withdrew all their troops after nearly 20 years of involvement in the war with the then-insurgent Taliban.

De facto Afghan authorities have since publicly flogged hundreds of men and women in sports stadiums in the presence of thousands of onlookers. The victims were convicted of offenses such as theft, robbery, adultery and other “moral crimes” by Taliban courts.

There is only one publicly available photograph of Akhundzada that the Taliban have officially used ever since he took command of the then-insurgent group in 2016.

Media representatives are not allowed to attend his public engagements, and even his followers are strictly forbidden from taking photos or filming him on their cell phones.

The Taliban leader rarely leaves Kandahar and rules the country from there.

The international community has not granted formal recognition to the men-only Taliban government, citing human rights concerns, especially the harsh treatment of Afghan women. Many Muslim-majority countries have also opposed the Taliban restrictions on women, saying that they are not based on Islamic principles. 

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In battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s Modi has strong support

Uttar Pradesh, India — After spending a morning loading his freshly harvested sugar cane crop onto a cart under a blazing sun, Krishan Pal feels a little dejected. He says profits from his one-hectare farm in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state have dwindled in recent years due to rising costs of essentials like fertilizer and pesticide.

“This government is not looking at the expenses we incur,” he told VOA. “It is not helping farmers.”

Despite his frustrations, Pal will back Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, which is seeking a third term in upcoming general elections.

“I think this is a nation of Hindus. Hindus should stay in power,” he said.

Politically pivotal region

For the estimated 200 million residents of Uttar Pradesh — a state more populous than Brazil and lesser developed than other Indian states — issues such as falling incomes, joblessness and rising prices are talking points among urban and rural communities as April 19 elections approach.

In a market in Muradnagar town, a group of shopkeepers discuss their businesses while awaiting customers. Mohammed Ashraf says his business of supplying fresh milk to customers has shrunk due to competition from young unemployed people entering the same line of work.

“There are no jobs in companies,” Ashraf said. “In 10 years, what has the government given? Employment avenues have [been] reduced. People want jobs, businesses, not just roads. What will young people do?”

But for many voters, such concerns remain on the back burner. Across the towns and villages of Uttar Pradesh, the overwhelming sentiment is staunch support for Modi’s ruling BJP — much as it was in the 2014 and 2019 elections that cemented its political dominance.

And because of its sheer numbers — the state determines 80 of 543 elected lawmakers in India’s lower house of parliament — whichever party holds sway over Uttar Pradesh is most like to secure the parliamentary majority needed to govern.

Favorable polls

Most recent surveys project a landslide victory for BJP in the six weeks of voting that begin April 19, with the party taking 70 of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh alone.

Surveys also indicate an opposition alliance called INDIA is expected to fare poorly in the state, with the once regionally dominant Samajwadi Party, which ruled Uttar Pradesh between 2012 and 2017, picking up less than 10 seats.

Regional support for BJP, say analysts, is fueled by the party’s Hindutva ideology, which puts Hindu national identity and improved governance at heart of its movement. Since 2017, Uttar Pradesh has been headed by prominent BJP official Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu priest turned politician.

Despite the lack of jobs and widespread regional poverty, some farmers like Kapil Tyagi say they’re satisfied with local development since Modi’s rise to power.

“The government has done good work,” he said. “A water tank has been installed. The electricity supply is regular, and we will be getting a road soon.”

As Tyagi spoke, a group of people gathered around, nodding silently in agreement.

Some 40 kilometers away in bustling Ghaziabad, the largest city in western Uttar Pradesh, entrepreneur Manan Anand says he found it easy to secure a bank loan for his venture.

In a state that once had a high crime rate, he says, he’s happy to see safety has improved.

“Modi’s government is doing fairly good as compared to earlier governments,” said Anand. “Girls and women can go out easily in the evening, that was not the case earlier.”

Although Anand says more needs to be done to expedite development, he’s optimistic the Modi government is on the right track.

‘Modi guarantees’

Modi’s appeal is built on a variety of factors, according to political analyst and author Neerja Chowdhury.

“He is seen as the king of Hindu hearts,” she told VOA. “He has flagged nationalism and national pride in a big way — BJP has given social welfare schemes that have given money in the hands of many people, what he calls ‘Modi guarantees.’”

In January, Modi inaugurated a grand temple in Ayodhya dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Ram that stands on the site of a demolished 16th-century mosque, fulfilling a longstanding BJP pledge to rebuild the Uttar Pradesh holy site. Symbolizing the country’s surging Hindu cultural nationalism, it has since drawn pilgrims by the tens of thousands.

“Indians are by nature religious, and Modi and the BJP have brought this to the fore. The opening of the temple has been packaged politically as if Modi played a pivotal role in its construction. He is perceived as the man who delivers,” said political analyst Rasheed Kidwai.

“Even if people face hardship such as lack of jobs, they feel their national roots, their faith, their culture is getting primacy.”

The BJP is also credited with stitching up alliances with small parties to widen its support base throughout the state.

Launching his election campaign from the Uttar Pradesh city of Meerut on March 31, Modi expressed confidence about his party’s reelection.

“Our government has started work for our next term. We are preparing the roadmap for the next five years and talking about the big decisions we will take in the next 100 days,” he told a huge crowd. Modi also spoke about India’s growing stature in the global community and said he aimed to make the country the world’s third largest economy.

On that same day, top leaders of the opposition INDIA alliance gathered in Delhi to accuse Modi and his ruling BJP of undermining democracy by intimidating and arresting political rivals, charges Modi denies.

Officials with the Samajwadi Party, the main opponent to BJP and part of the broader opposition alliance, have also said that protecting democracy and the right to social justice are critical to national development.

Criticism aside, analyst Chowdhury says Modi appeals to a young, aspiring nation.

“He is talking about India 10 years down the line, 25 years down the line, 50 years down the line, selling people dreams which the opposition is not able to match.”

A good showing in Uttar Pradesh will be pivotal to Modi’s ambitions of surpassing his party’s present tally of 303 seats in parliament. India’s elections will be held in seven phases over six weeks with votes being counted on June 4.

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