Today was the last phase of the Uttar Pradesh elections. Polling took place in southeastern districts of the state, including Varanasi (Benares), where the main parties had organized large rallies and road shows. Narendra Modi campaigned in Varanasi over the weekend and visited several places of religious worship, which coming from the leader of the BJP should not surprise anyone, but in comparative perspective sounds peculiar. India is officially a secular country, though the practice of secularism in India differs significantly from other countries. In recent years, the rise of the BJP, India’s openly Hindu party has challenged this understanding of secularism minted in the immediate post-independence period after the trauma of partition. Varanasi is an important symbol for the politics of religion and secularism. It is one of Hinduism’s holiest places, but it also includes a large Muslim community. The show organized by the BJP and Modi’s visits to important temples are very significant in that regard.
The election results will be announced on Saturday morning, just before the festival of Holi on Sunday and Monday next week.