Modi to contest from Varanasi as BJP kickstarts India’s general election campaign

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will again contest from the holy Hindu city of Varanasi, topping the first list of candidates which gives his Bharatiya Janata Party a headstart over the opposition alliance that’s still negotiating seat shares.

Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, is in Uttar Pradesh which sends the highest number of lawmakers to parliament and has given India most of its prime ministers.

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The first list comprises of 195 candidates from 16 states and two federal-controlled provinces, BJP’s National General Secretary Vinod Tawde said in New Delhi Saturday announcing the candidates. The list includes 34 federal ministers, including India’s Home Minister Amit Shah.

Shah, perceived as Modi’s point man for more than three decades, will contest from Gandhinagar in the western state of Gujarat, according to the party. Declaring candidates early gives the BJP more time to reach out to voters, as Modi attempts to increase representation in the lower house.

India is the world’s biggest democracy and polls are scheduled in April with voting typically spanning several weeks. The new government is expected to take office in May.

Modi is seeking a record third term in office. He is campaigning on programs such as free food for the poor, piped water for households, rapid infrastructure development, and India’s widening participation on the global stage. The economy grew more than 8 percent in the final three months of last year, beating analyst forecasts and helping Modi project himself as the only option for voters.

India’s opposition alliance, known by the acronym I.N.D.I.A, was formed last year to boost chances of defeating the BJP. Negotiations are taking place among regional parties and possible allies and the coalition has not declared any candidates.

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