VARANASI, India- 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.
Modi is standing in the famed pilgrimage site on the banks of the river Ganges in the final phase of the world’s biggest election, a contest which has been marred by religious divisions and a vitriolic campaign.
The 63-year-old, expected to become prime minister if the Hindu nationalist BJP and its allies secure a majority when results are announced on Friday, urged residents to turn out in record numbers.
Anti-corruption champion Arvind Kejriwal from the upstart Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party is also standing and hoping to upset Modi, who has spent little time in the city as he campaigned across the country.
“I have voted for the about-to-be PM of India, Narendra Modi,” 35-year-old Setupati Tripathi told AFP after casting his ballot in Varanasi.
“With him winning the Varanasi seat, I am also confident about the development of this millennia-old city as a tourist destination,” he added.
The first voters filed into polling stations at 07:00 am (0130 GMT), with early queues indicating enthusiasm for the most high-profile contest of the five weeks of voting.