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June 27, 2017

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Modi urges record turnout on final poll day

NEW DELHI--India's frontrunner for prime minister Narendra Modi urged voters to turn out in record numbers to throw the scandal-plagued Congress party out of power as a bitter, marathon election campaign neared its end.

Modi, from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), made his final appeal to voters before the last round of voting on Monday in the world's biggest election, which is expected to catapult the Hindu nationalist hardliner to power.

"People are tired of false promises, corruption and the same old tape-recorded messages ridden with dynastic references only to hide one's own failure," Modi said in a blog late Saturday.

"They want a better tomorrow and NDA is the only alliance that can provide this change," Modi said, referring to a BJP-led National Democratic Alliance coalition.

"I urge all those voting in the final phase to vote in record numbers, especially the youth," he said.

Politicians were barred from making speeches and taking to the hustings on Sunday, one day before 66 million people are eligible to cast their ballots in 41 seats in the final stage of staggered voting.

Campaigning ended on Saturday in the five-week election that is likely to see Congress — whose campaign is headed by Rahul Gandhi, scion of India's most famous political dynasty — ousted from power after 10 years.

Opinion polls show voters have turned against Congress over massive graft scandals, spiraling inflation and a sharp economic slowdown during its two terms heading a left-leaning coalition government since 2004.

The BJP is expected to win the most seats in the 543-member parliament but will likely fall short of an outright majority, meaning it will need to forge a coalition with regional parties.

Modi, 63, the son of a tea-stall owner who has pledged development, investment and jobs to revive the struggling economy, sought to strike a note of unity in his last message to voters before campaigning ended.

"We can decide whether we want to fight each other or we want to unite to fight poverty? The former will lead us nowhere while the latter will take our nation to greater heights," he said in his blog.

Deeply Polarizing

The campaign has sparked claims by Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders that Modi will widen divisions between the majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities if elected.

Although popular, Modi is a deeply polarizing figure due to his Hindu nationalist past and allegations that he failed swiftly to curb deadly 2002 anti-Muslim riots.

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