Modi’s Power Keeps Growing, and India Looks Mühlet to Give Him More

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As he campaigns across India for an election that begins on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks of his insatiable ambitions in terms of dinner-table appetite.

Roofs over heads, water connections, cooking gas cylinders — Mr. Modi reads down the menu of what he calls the abundant “development” he has provided to India’s poor. But he’s not stopping there. “What Modi has done so far is just the appetizer,” he said at one stop, referring to himself in the third person, as he often does. “The main course is yet to come.”

To Mr. Modi’s legions of supporters, a third term would bring more of what they find so appealing in him. He is that rare breed of strongman who keeps an ear to the ground. He is a magnetic figure and a powerful orator. He has built an image as a tireless, incorruptible worker for a country on the rise.

But to his critics, Mr. Modi’s talk of a “main course” is an alarm bell for the future of the world’s largest democracy.

Mr. Modi is using rallies across the country to promote his government’s assistance to the poor.Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

Mr. Modi, 73, enters the election a heavy favorite, his party’s grip over India’s more populous northern and central heartlands firmer than ever, the opposition in the same decisive geography even more diminished. Yet even with his place as India’s unrivaled leader seemingly secured, he has carried out a crackdown on dissent that has only intensified.

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