Modi’s Central India Citadel Faces Religious Divide: India Votes

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(Bloomberg) -- Each day, Bloomberg journalists take you across a selection of towns and cities as they gear up for the big vote.

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Hello. I’m Ragini Saxena and I write about cars, bikes and planes from New Delhi. I grew up in Bhopal, a beautiful historic city and the capital of Madhya Pradesh in central India, known for its lakes and monuments. The city has elected a representative from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in each of the last nine elections since 1989. Infamous for one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, caused by a gas leak at Union Carbide’s factory in 1984, Bhopal is a melting pot of cultures and art. Despite its rich heritage, the city of beautiful mosques and palaces has seen an erosion in communal harmony in the recent years, amid reports of Muslim homes being demolished and cow vigilantes killing men belonging to India’s indigenous tribes. Other key issue in the city and its nearby areas is the acute water shortage in summers, despite the dozens of lakes surrounding it.

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Rahul Gandhi, the face of the alliance of more than two dozen opposition parties, will contest from the decades-old family stronghold Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh, along with Wayanad constituency in the southern state of Kerala. The Indian National Congress nominated the 53-year-old leader from the seat that his mother, Sonia Gandhi, held for four terms. The party fielded Kishori Lal Sharma as its candidate for Amethi. His sister Priyanka, who is the Congress party’s general secretary, was seen as a possible contender for one of the constituencies.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden included allies Japan and India along with rivals China and Russia in a list of countries he called “xenophobic” in a speech at a campaign fundraising event in Washington earlier this week.

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Congress’s tally in the ongoing elections will be an “all-time low” and Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Raebareli seat was after sensing defeat at Wayanad, news agency PTI cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi as saying at an election rally in West Bengal.

Meanwhile, the news agency reported that the Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea challenging the arrest of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a money laundering case, citing lack of maintainability.

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Al Jazeera reported that as India’s giant national election nears its mid-point, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rhetoric against Muslims is growing shriller. That’s worrying analysts and even Muslims who backed the prime minister until recently but now fear that the rhetoric risks serving as oxygen for increased physical violence against Indian Muslims.

Who Votes This Week?

India’s mammoth election runs through June 1, with counting scheduled for June 4. This map from the Election Commission of India shows which constituencies vote when.

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Indians have started voting in the world’s biggest election. Understand how money and business intersect with politics and power by following Bloomberg India’s channel on WhatsApp, and sign up for the weekly India Edition newsletter by Menaka Doshi.

This story was produced with the assistance of Bloomberg Automation.

--With assistance from Supriya Batra.

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