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India’s Modi vows to boost social spending, make country into a manufacturing hub ahead of election

India’s Modi vows to boost social spending, make country into a manufacturing hub ahead of election

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to boost social spending, develop infrastructure and make India a global manufacturing hub as companies shift away from China

ByASHOK SHARMA Associated Press

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday vowed to boost social spending, develop infrastructure and make India into a global manufacturing hub as companies shift away from China, as he unveiled his Hindu nationalist party’s election strategy.

Modi hopes to return to power for a third five-year term. He and other leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party unveiled their promises in the world’s largest democracy days before the start of a multi-phase general election.

Modi promised to expand social programs introduced during his party’s 10-year rule, including millions of free homes for the poor, along with health care, cooking gas and free grain. His government has been paying 6,000 rupees ($73) a year to poor farmers.

He said his government’s policies have pulled 250 million people out of poverty since he came to power in 2014. India is the world’s most populous country with over 1.4 billion people. The BJP’s president, J.P. Nadda, said less than 1% of Indian people now live in extreme poverty.

India holds its elections on different days in different parts of the country, stretching over weeks. Voting for the country’s parliament will begin on April 19 and run until June 1, and results will be announced on June 4.

Most polls have predicted a victory for Modi and the BJP. But the opposition Congress Party argues that Modi has undermined India’s democracy and favored the interests of the rich.

Modi has been campaigning extensively across the country, promising to expand India’s economy to $5 trillion by 2027 from around $3.7 trillion. He also promises to put India on track to become a developed country by 2047, when the country celebrates 100 years of independence from British colonialists.

On Sunday, he said his party would develop India as a hub for the pharmaceutical, energy, semiconductor and tourism industries. He also said India will modernize its infrastructure, including its railways, airways, and waterways. And he said he will seek to increase jobs for young people and access to cheap loans for young entrepreneurs.

Modi is broadly popular in India, where he’s considered a champion of the country’s Hindu majority and has overseen rapid economic growth.

But critics say another term for the BJP could undermine India’s status as a secular, democratic nation, saying its 10 years in power have brought attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country’s minorities, particularly Muslims, and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

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