Modi vies for power in bloody Indian state

Makrampur, India, March 25 (AFP/APP): Shoubhik Dolai was riddled with bullets in West Bengal, the killing fields of Indian politics where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing hard to win power for the first time in elections starting Saturday.

Victory in the eastern state of 90 million people over one of Modi’s most prominent opponents would be a major achievement for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, two years after sweeping to a second term.

Politics in West Bengal, far from the BJP’s Hindi-speaking heartlands in northern India, is a dangerous business, with thousands killed in political violence in recent decades.

Dolai, 26, who died last month, was an activist with the regional Trinamool Congress party headed by Mamata Banerjee, a wily firebrand who has run the state since ending three decades of communist rule in 2011. “They pumped bullets into him. I did not even know he had died. I got to know when I saw the news on TV,” his mother Sumita said, wiping tears from one end of her dishevelled sari as she clutched a photograph. “He laid down his life for the sake of the party but no one from the party has come even once to share our grief,” she told AFP in her spartan mud-and-straw house in the village of Makrampur.

Other states going to the polls in the coming weeks include Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as the BJP tries to increase the number of regions it governs — currently 17 out of 36.

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