PM Modi votes as India's marathon election heats up

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi cast his ballot Tuesday in India's ongoing general election after giving several inflammatory campaign speeches accused of targeting minority Muslims.

Turnout so far has dropped significantly compared with the last national poll in 2019, with analysts blaming widespread expectations that Modi will easily win a third term and hotter-than-average temperatures heading into the summer.

Modi walked out of a polling booth early morning in the city of Ahmedabad while holding up a finger marked with indelible ink, flanked by security personnel and cheered by supporters.

"In the grand ritual of democracy, everyone contributing their share deserves congratulations," Modi told reporters.

"Once again, I tell Indians... to come in huge numbers to vote and celebrate the festival of democracy."

The premier's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to win the election convincingly, but since the vote began on April 19, Modi has stepped up his rhetoric on India's main religious divide in a bid to rally voters.

He has used public speeches to refer to Muslims as "infiltrators" and "those who have more children", prompting condemnation from opposition politicians, who have complained to election authorities.

Modi has also accused Congress, the main party in the disparate opposition alliance competing against him, of planning to reallocate the nation's wealth to Muslim households.

"This is the first time in a long time that he is so direct," said Hartosh Singh Bal, executive editor at news magazine The Caravan.

"I haven't seen him be this directly bigoted, usually he alludes to bigotry," he added.

"The comments on wealth redistribution are targeting something...

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