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Warships and wives: debate in Indian election turns increasingly ugly

FILE PHOTO: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, India, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

From jibes over the prime minister’s wife to criticism of the main opposition leader’s family holiday three decades ago, one trend stands out in this year’s general election campaign in India: this time, it’s personal.

The world’s largest democracy, with around 900 million eligible voters, wraps up polling held over six weeks on Sunday. Results will be known on May 23.

Election observers say this has been an unusually hostile campaign even by Indian standards, devoid of real policy debate to the expected benefit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The last few elections were about corruption or inflation,” said Harsh Pant, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation think-tank in New Delhi. “This time, there are no real issues being discussed.”

Modi won a surprise majority in 2014, riding a wave of anger over perceived graft by the Congress party, which has governed India for the majority of the seven decades after the end of British rule in 1947.


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