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India Frontrunner Modi to Run in Two Districts to Ensure Victory

Indian PM Candidate Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), greets the media at a news conference during the inauguration of the Welspun Solar Energy Ltd. solar power project near Bhagwanpura, Madhya Pradesh, India. Photographer: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg

March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, will contest the nation’s general elections from two seats in a move to reduce the chances of a surprise defeat.

Modi, 63, will run from the Vadodara constituency in Gujarat, the state he has run since 2001, the BJP said yesterday when presenting its sixth list of candidates. He also will be standing in Varanasi, a Hindu stronghold in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most-populous state.

“The BJP cannot take any chance with its prime ministerial candidate contesting only from a seat outside Gujarat,” said Subrata Mukherjee, an independent political analyst in New Delhi. “The party is making doubly sure of his win.”

Modi’s electoral fight from two constituencies will help him to project himself as a pan-India leader and may improve the party’s prospects in Uttar Pradesh, which sends a seventh of all lawmakers to the lower house of the national parliament. Polls show Modi’s party winning the most seats in the election starting next month, while falling short of a majority.

It’s not unusual for politicians to contest more than one seat in India. Sonia Gandhi, president of the ruling Congress party, has contested from two seats in an election. Her late mother-in-law, prime minister Indira Gandhi, also ran in two constituencies.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi, the 43-year-old scion of India’s foremost political dynasty, is leading the Congress campaign after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he wouldn’t stand for a third term. The Congress party has seen its popularity slump while overseeing the slowest economic growth in a decade in the nation of 1.2 billion people.

Modi is promoting Gujarat’s image as a magnet for investment and a record of stronger-than-average growth since he began running it in 2001 as a key element of his campaign. Congress party leaders say he’s an autocrat who failed to control deadly anti-Muslim rioting in Gujarat in 2002. He’s denied wrongdoing. Modi has previously only won elections in Gujarat, in western India.

Varanasi will be one of the most-watched constituencies in the election. Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the year-old Aam Aadmi Party, which formed a government in Delhi for a brief period after state elections there last year, has indicated he will contest against Modi.

Congress and other regional parties, including the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, have vowed to put up formidable candidates against Modi.

“Strategically he is fighting from Uttar Pradesh to galvanize support there and cause a spillover effect in adjoining areas,” Mukherjee said, referring to Modi.

Lal Krishna Advani, 86 and a senior BJP leader, will contest from the Gandhinagar constituency in Gujarat, the party also said today.

Voting for parliament will start in phases from April 7, and election results will be announced on May 16.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Niveditha Ravi at nravi2@bloomberg.net; Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net Dick Schumacher

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