10.30 pm: Here are the top stories of the day:

  • The Election Commission banned West Bengal BJP leader Mahadev Sarkar from campaigning for 48 hours, for making sexist remarks at Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra. The ban came into force at 4 pm on Friday.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi submitted his nomination papers as the BJP’s candidate for Varanasi. In a show of strength, several NDA leaders, including Rajnath Singh, Amit Shha, Adityanath, Sushma Swaraj, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Shiromani Akali Dal Patron Parkash Singh Badal, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar, were present.
  • A court in Delhi directed the police to file an action-taken report on a plea seeking directions to file a first information report against Congress President Rahul Gandhi for allegedly making seditious comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed that the BJP is likely to win a mandate greater than 2014 in the 2019 elections, and that the Opposition’s grand alliance “died before it was born”.
  • AAP’s East Delhi candidate Atishi Marlena said she had filed a criminal complaint against her Bharatiya Janata Party opponent Gautam Gambhir, claiming that he is registered as a voter in two constituencies.
  • Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that the middle class will not have to pay a single paisa for the Nyuntam Aay Yojana that his party has promised to implement if it comes to power.
  • Indian Overseas Congress chief Sam Pitroda said it was Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s decision to not contest the Lok Sabha election from Varanasi. 
  • Punjabi pop singer Daler Mehndi switched from the Congress to the BJP. Mehndi had joined the Opposition party in 2013. 

10.15 pm: CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat hits out at Union minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh for his comment on the Muslim community. Karat says Singh suffers from the “foot-in-the-mouth disease”. “This shows the politics of Modi and [Amit] Shah who patronise a serial offender by giving ticket to him,” Karat says, according to PTI.

10 pm: Maharashtra Congress MLA Kalidas Kolambkar was seen at Modi’s rally in Mumbai. “I am angry with Congress as no work has happened in my constituency,” Kolambkar tells ANI. “I will leave Congress and support those who work. I came here to listen to their speech. I used to come to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speeches as well.”

9.28 pm: Mumbai will have 40 polling booths with all-women staff, Additional Chief Election Officer Dilip Shinde says according to PTI. “This is a unique idea that the district collector will be implementing,” he adds. “Each women voter who comes to these booths will get a pack of sanitary napkins.”

9.24 pm: Modi says that after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, there was one question in people’s minds: “How long will we continue to suffer? For how long will terrorists not pay for their crimes?” The prime minister says his government has shown that it will enter the homes of terrorists to kill them.

9.20 pm: Modi says the inflation rate has reduced from 10% to 4% during the NDA regime. He adds that news of corruption scandals has disappeared from newspapers. “We took many steps to end corruption, due to which some people are in jail and some on bail.”

9.16 pm: BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya claims that people like the party’s Bhopal candidate, Pragya Singh Thakur, were tortured during the regime of the United Progressive Alliance in an attempt to prove that Hindus were terrorists, PTI reported. “The kind of allegations and oppression Sadhvi Pragya faced is rarely seen in our history after Independence,” he says in Indore. “The torment she faced has deeply affected her.”

9.09 pm: Modi says the Congress party, which “looted” the country will have to return what they have stolen. He adds that in the last five years, the government increased the tax base while not raising the tax rate.

9 pm: Modi says the next five years are very important for India. However, he claims, the Congress is focused on memories of the past. “Confusion is now another name for the Congress,” Modi adds.

8.56 pm: Narendra Modi says at a rally in Mumbai that the 2019 elections are not about choosing a government, but a direction for the country, the BJP tweets.

8.50 pm: Congress leader Rajeev Shukla claims that Arun Jaitley’s jibe at Priyanka Gandhi shows the BJP was scared of the possibility of her being fielded from Varanasi, PTI reports. “The finance minister is angry, the prime minister is dejected,” he says. “He expressed his desperation today. This atmosphere of dejection is prevailing in the BJP.”

8.41 pm: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah says that Narendra Modi is the only prime minister since 1996 who has not been able to conduct elections in Jammu and Kashmir on time.

8.21 pm: Mohammad Mohsin, the Indian Administrative Service officer who was suspended by the poll panel for checking Modi’s helicopter in Odisha, tells NDTV that he was “doing his duty and would do his duty per rules”. “On the spur of the moment they have suspended me,” he tells the channel. “I have not received a single report that can tell me what I have done. I am fighting for myself in the dark.”

The Central Administrative Tribunal had stayed Mohsin’s suspension on Thursday. However, the poll panel has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against him.

8.15 pm: Narendra Modi claims at a rally in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur that Opposition leaders are in a race to support Pakistan in the matter of of military operations against terror camps in the country, and back China on the 2017 Doklam standoff, PTI reports. The prime minister says that after voting on over 300 seats, the Opposition has realised that there is a “Modi wave”, and has given up.

8.11 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury claims that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wants Narendra Modi to remain prime minister, so that Hindu communalism can increase in India, PTI reports. He says this will enable Muslim fundamentalism to grow in Pakistan.

Khan had told foreign journalists in Islamabad on April 10 that there will be a better chance of resolving the Kashmir problem if the BJP remains in power.

8.08 pm: BJP leader Anurag Thakur has filed his nomination papers from the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh on Friday, The Indian Express reports. In his affidavit, Thakur has declared his total assets to be worth Rs 5.67 crore.

At a rally with Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Anurag Thakur said the Congress put roadblocks in development in the state.

8.02 pm: The Congress has demanded that the poll panel ban Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections for allegedly making a communal remark, PTI reports. Kejriwal had said at a press conference that the Congress would not get a single Hindu vote in the Parliamentary polls, and added that Muslims were “confused”.

7.59 pm: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath claims that the BJP will win 400 seats in the Lok Sabha elections, PTI reports. Adityanath says no power that can stop Modi from becoming the prime minister again.

7.55 pm: The Election Commission has barred West Bengal BJP leader Mahadev Sarkar from campaigning for 48 hours after he made sexist remarks against Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra. The ban came into effect at 4 pm on Friday.

7.45 pm: Congress leader Hardik Patel alleges that Narendra Modi was politicising soldiers as he had not done anything for the country in the last five years. “Had he [Modi] done something, he would have gone to the people with a list of the works to show instead of seeking votes in the name of soldiers,” Patel told reporters, according to PTI. “He is using martyrs for political gains.”

Patel hits out at Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for alleged anti-farmer policies of the ruling BJP at the Centre and the state.

Patel was in Uttar Pradesh to address a rally in support of Congress’ Maharajganj Lok Sabha candidate, Supriya Shrinate.

7.24 pm: Himachal Pradesh’s BJP unit sets up committee to look into the ongoing public spat between its two MLAs from Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion and Desraj Karnawal, PTI reports. The committee will be headed by party general secretary and MLA Khajan Das and senior party leaders Vishwas Dabur and Kuldeep Kumar will be its members.

The spat between the two leaders began after Karnawal cast doubts on Champion’s educational qualifications and sports credentials.

6.55 pm: Congress leader Raj Babbar says party chief Rahul Gandhi is the only alternative to the BJP, reports News18. Babbar claims Trinamool Congress aided BJP’s growth in West Bengal and said the party was afraid that free and fair polls might result in its defeat. Babbar is the Congress’s candidate from Fatehpur Sikri.

6.34 pm: Shah says Modi government will provide pension to farmers after they turn 60 years old. He says Modi has worked for the welfare of the poor. “Rahul baba travels across the country and says nyay (justice) will be done to the poor.” The Congress party’s minimum income guarantee scheme or Nyuntam Aay Yojana is abbreviated to NYAY.

6.29 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah addresses a rally in Jalore, Rajasthan. He says Congress party’s allies are calling for two prime ministers – one for Kashmir and one for the rest of the country. “Open your ears and listen Rahul baba, no one will be able to separate Kashmir from India.”

6.22 pm: The BJP’s Karnataka unit seeks clarification from the Election Commission about relaxations allegedly given to the state government despite the Model Code of Conduct being in place. According to the BJP, the state government claimed on Wednesday that it has been allowed by the poll panel to go ahead with development work, with elections already completed in all constituencies of the state.

Read more here:

BJP asks EC to reconsider decision to purportedly relax poll code in Karnataka

6.20 pm: The Election Commission bars Nadia BJP District President Mahadev Sarkar from holding any public meeting, road show, public rally or interviews in media for 48 hours from 4 pm on April 26 till 4 pm on April 28, reports ANI.

6.18 pm: Congress President Rahul Gandhi says the middle class will not have to pay a single paisa for the Nyuntam Aay Yojana or NYAY scheme that his party has promised to implement if it comes to power. Under the scheme, the Congress has proposed to deposit Rs 6,000 per month in the bank accounts of the poorest 20% of the country’s population.

Gandhi was speaking at a rally in Samastipur in Bihar.

Read more here:

Rahul Gandhi says middle class will not have to pay anything for NYAY scheme

6.16 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi listed assets worth Rs 2.5 crore, including a residential plot at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, fixed deposits of Rs 1.27 crore and Rs 38,750 cash in hand in his affidavit filed on Friday, reports PTI. Modi had disclosed total assets of Rs 1.65 crore before the 2014 General Elections.

Modi named Jashodaben as his wife in the affidavit and declared that he is an Arts graduate from Delhi University (1978) and has an MA degree from Gujarat University in 1983.

6.11 pm: PM Modi says bags and boxes full of notes were recovered from the houses of Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh. “Congress has done a Tughlaq Road election scam in just six months of coming to power,” he says.

6.06 pm: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is speaking in Balasore, Odisha, says the prime minister is aware that “speaking about his past promise of depositing Rs 15 lakh each to people’s bank accounts will simply boomerang now”, reports PTI.

6.02 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says if there are naamdars [dynast] in Delhi, then there are chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan who are only working to make the career of their children, reports The Indian Express. The Congress has fielded Nakul Nath, son of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, from Chhindwara, and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son, Vaibhav Gehlot, from Jodhpur.

5.58 pm: The Election Commission sends a show-cause notice to BJP leader Mahadev Sarkar for violating the Model Code of Conduct. Trinamool Congress legislator Mahua Moitra had alleged that Sarkar made offensive and sexist remarks against her. Moitra had alleged that Sarkar made the comments in the presence of BJP candidate Kalyan Chaubey on April 22.

5.52 pm: Aam Aadmi Party leader Bhagwant Mann files his nomination papers for the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat in Punjab, reports News18. Mann will contest against Congress’s Kewal Dhillon and Shiromani Akali Dal’s Parminder Dhindsa.

5.49 pm: PM Narendra Modi says the money that the Centre disbursed for Adivasi women and poor children were looted by the Madhya Pradesh government.

5.44 pm: Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik and his son Navajyoti are the richest candidates in the fray for the fourth and final phase of twin elections in the state, reports PTI quoting Odisha Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms. Six parliamentary constituencies and 42 Assembly seats will vote on April 29.

Navajyoti Patnaik whose assets amount to Rs 104 crore is the wealthiest among the 52 candidates contesting the Lok Sabha polls, while his father Niranjan Patnaik’s was the richest among Assembly election candidates with assets worth Rs 60 crore.

5.38 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the Congress mocked the Swachh Bharat Mission, reports ANI. “They didn’t leave any chance to call the idea a small one,” he says in Jabalpur. “Whenever I used to pick the broom, they used to spend the entire day trolling me on social media.”

5.31 pm: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi says if Prime minister Narendra Modi can waive debts of industrialists, why should farmers be punished. He is speaking at a rally in Odisha. “Narendra Modi fooled people by opening bank accounts for poor,” he says, according to PTI.

5.28 pm: “First-time voters have to decide who will lay the strong foundation of 21st century in the next five years,” Modi says. “So that they get the fortune of spending their entire life in 21st century with happiness.”

5.26 pm: Modi targets the Opposition, saying they hurl abuses at him. “They search the dictionary and think of what abuses to use against Modi today,” he says.

5.22 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is speaking at a rally in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. “This election is not about which party wins, it’s about the country’s security,” he says, according to News18. “Your vote is responsible for enhancing India’s prestige and power on the world stage.”

5.17 pm: Jaitley says: “The Congress obviously is in no position to take on the regional parties or the BJP in the 2019 LS elections. Therefore, the only issue in the future phases is the width of the margin of victory of the BJP. Will it be a repeat of 2014 in terms of votes or will it be more?”

5.15 pm: Jaitley says Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has built up a fake narrative on Rafale deal and loan waiver to businesses, “which was contrary to the truth”. “The fake issues evaporated and now strike no chord with the electorate,” he says.

5.11 pm: Union minister Arun Jaitley says the Congress is contesting the 2019 elections on the 1971 agenda. “It is not in sync with the times,” he says on Twitter. “The writing on the wall is loud and clear. Those who lived a life of entitlement all through, give up when ‘the office’ seems to be a distant dream.”

5.09 pm: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi says if the Congress comes to power, no farmer will be sent to jail for failing to pay their debt, reports News18.

5.04 pm: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh says Sunny Deol, who is BJP’s candidate from Gurdaspur, is a “filmy fauji [soldier]” while he is a real soldier. “We will defeat him, he is no threat to Sunil Jakhar (Congress candidate from the seat), or the Congress,” he says, according to ANI.

4.59 pm: Gandhi says the Congress party’s NYAY scheme will be a surgical strike on poverty, reports News18.

4.55 pm: Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses a public meeting in Balasore, Odisha.

4.49 pm: Union minister Thawar Chand Gehlot says the NDA will win over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha elections and all the 25 parliamentary seats in Rajasthan, reports PTI. “In many places across the country there is a tsunami in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he says. “There is also a wave in his favour in states like Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.”

4.35 pm: Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa writes to Chief Election Commissioner stating that the Karnataka government is taking up developmental works.

4.30 pm: Delhi’s Tis Hazari Court will hear Atishi Marlena’s complaint against Gautam Gambhir on May 1, reports ANI.

4.23 pm: Goa Suraksha Manch names Subhash Velingkar its candidate for the Panaji bye-polls, reports PTI.

4.19 pm: BJP asks Election Commission to take action against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for allegedly violating the Model Code of Conduct, reports ANI. The saffron party says during an election meeting in Bhirbhum on Thursday, Banerjee asked her party cadres to conduct election with intimidation and threatening.

4.11 pm: Delhi court seeks action taken report from police on complaint seeking directions for FIR against Rahul Gandhi for using allegedly derogatory remark against PM Modi. The court will hear the matter again on May 15.

4.09 pm: Addressing a rally in Asansol, West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee threatens to break Modi’s teeth, reports ANI. “We will give him rasgulla from Bengal,” she says. “We will make sweets from soil and put pebbles in it similarly like cashew nuts and raisins are used in laddu. The will break [his] teeth.”

4.07 pm: Congress’ Patiala candidate Preneet Kaur files nomination.

4.05 pm: A Trinamool Congress delegation meets Election Commission officials in Kolkata to protest ‘BJP’ written below symbol on EVM machines in West Bengal.

4.04 pm: Rajnath Singh says curbing insurgency in the North East has been his biggest achievement as home minister, reports PTI. He claims Maoist violence in the country has also reduced.

3.44 pm: Reacting to AAP filing a criminal complaint against BJP nominee Gautam Gambhir, Manoj Tiwari brushes it off as mere allegations. “There is no truth to this,” he tells reporters. “It will not threaten his candidature. AAP is playing negative politics.”

3.39 pm: Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad files nomination from Patna Sahib constituency.

3.29 pm: Sukhbir Singh Badal files nomination papers from Ferozepur. “After paying obeisance at Sachkhand Sri Harmandir Sahib in the morning, @officeofssbadal filed his nomination papers for #LoksabhaElection from #Ferozepur. I request everyone to vote & support him for the all round development of the constituency,” tweets Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

3.21 pm: After Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav speaks at a joint rally in Jalaun. “BJP is not able to understand the power of our mahagatbandhan,” he says. “This election is all about removing chowkidar from the Centre and the state. People who can deceive Ganga can deceive anyone. They took all your money after demonetisation. They stopped the development of UP after coming to power.”

3.19 pm: Congress candidate Atanasio Monserratte files his nomination for the bye-polls to Panaji Assembly constituency, reports PTI. The elections will be held on May 19. The seat fell vacant after the death of sitting MLA and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

3.01 pm: Mayawati says Modi is playing politics in the name of the armed forces. She accuses the PM of not doing anything for the people from backward classes. “He says so just to gather votes from them, he has lied to the people of India. Modi is a farzi backward class,” she adds.

2.57 pm: BSP chief Mayawati says the BJP will lose this time. Addressing a rally in Jalaun, Uttar Pradesh, she says, “PM Modi promised ‘acche din’ but has failed to do so. Modi has only helped some of his close industrialists.”

2.50 pm: Continuing his attack on the Congress manifesto, Modi asks how will the party end terrorism if it plans to relax the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and revoke the sedition law.

2.46 pm: Addressing a rally in Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh, Modi accuses the Congress of reducing electricity supply. “Congress had promised to reduce electricity bills and found a solution to do so by reducing electricity supply in your homes,” he says. “Congress government here is running on the formula of supplying lesser electricity than previous Shivraj government. Is this not betrayal?”

2.40 pm: Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot accuses the BJP of not keeping its promises made in 2014. “[The] PM is not just a worker of a political party, he is the PM of our country and therefore should come forward and explain what work has he done in the past five years,” Pilot says at a press conference in Jabalpur.

2.29 pm: Aam Aadmi Party’s East Delhi candidate Atishi Marlena says she has filed a criminal complaint against her Bharatiya Janata Party opponent Gautam Gambhir, claiming that he is registered as a voter in two constituencies. She adds that this is an offence that will lead to Gambhir’s disqualification as an election candidate, “sooner or later”.

Read more here

Delhi: AAP leader Atishi moves court against BJP opponent Gautam Gambhir, says he has two voter IDs

1.58 pm: Singer Daler Mehndi joins Bharatiya Janata Party, ANI reports.

Read more here

Lok Sabha elections: Singer Daler Mehndi joins BJP

1.52 pm: Congress leader Sam Pitroda says Priyanka Gandhi took the decision to not contest elections from Varanasi. “She thought rather than concentrating on one seat she should focus on the job she has at hand,” ANI quotes him as saying.

Read more here

‘It was her decision’: Priyanka Gandhi decided to not contest from Varanasi, says Sam Pitroda

1.34 pm: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has accused the Election Commission of enforcing frivolous rules in the name of implementing the Model Code of Conduct, reports The Indian Express. In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, dated April 25, he alleged that the election body usurped his government’s powers and prevented it from discharging its duties.

1.29 pm: Shiromani Akali Dal Patron Parkash Singh Badal says people of the country should think about who the prime minister should be. “Comparing Modi sahab and Rahul Gandhi is like discussing the difference between an elephant and an insect,” Badal tells ANI.

1.15 pm: The Election Commission has appointed 400 police and state armed forces personnel in Madhya Pradesh to act as “runners” in areas with no mobile and internet connectivity, reports Hindustan Times. They will collect data on voting percentages and inform the chief election officer and district election officer of technical glitches in electronic voting machines and other untoward incidents. They will be provided a vehicle and a mobile phone.

1.05 pm: Narendra Modi urges people to vote. “Some people are saying that Modi ji has already won, so voting does not matter,” ANI quotes the prime minister as saying. “I request voters to not listen to such people. Voting is your right, the elections are a festival of democracy, and people should vote to stregthen the country.”

12.59 pm: Prime Minister Modi, while interacting with the media, expresses his gratitude to the people of Varanasi, says they have blessed him again after five years.

12.54 pm: Senior BJP leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, party president Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj accompanied Narendra Modi to the Varanasi collector’s office, where he filed his nomination papers. Allies such as Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan were also present.

Read more

Lok Sabha polls: PM Narendra Modi files nomination papers for re-election to Varanasi seat

12.47 pm: The Election Commission has censured BJP leader and Rajasthan’s Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria for giving a hate speech at a public meeting near Udaipur on April 13, reports The Indian Express. He claimed that while Muslims have 12 children, Hindus have two, and alleged that the country will be divided once more if this situation continues.

12.39 pm: Aviation regulator DGCA has started investigation after a plane carrying Congress President Rahul Gandhi from New Delhi to Patna suffered engine troubles, reports PTI. Gandhi is scheduled to address three rallies today in Bihar.

12.30 pm: Rajnath Singh says curbing insurgency in the northeast is his biggest achievement as Union home minister. “The way Modi ji has led the country at national and international levels in the last five years, there is not an iota of doubt about our win with three-fourths majority in these polls,” PTI quotes him as saying.

12.28 pm: Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, the son of Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, has said that the Modi government had to spend five years “washing away the sins” of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, reports PTI. According to him, the Modi government will dedicate its second term to real development.

11.58 am: The CPI(M) releases a 12-minute video explaining the party’s manifesto in sign language, reports The Hindu.

11.46 am: Narendra Modi files his nomination papers from Varanasi parliamentary seat.

11.28 am: Narendra Modi’s proposers are a watchman, a Dalit, a Sangh worker, a principal of a girls’ college and the prime minister himself, reports News18. A candidate of a national party needs five proposers.

11.25 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at the collectorate’s office to file his nomination from Varanasi.

11.19 am: NDA leaders arrive at collectorate’s office in Varanasi.

11.11 am: Supreme Court refuses to interfere with the Election Commission’s order banning the release of biopic PM Narendra Modi. The film producers had challenged the poll body’s ban.

Read more here

Narendra Modi biopic: SC refuses to revoke EC ban on film till the end of the elections

11 am: Modi leaves for the collectorate’s office to file his nomination.

10.56 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi offers prayers at Kal Bhairav temple before filing his nomination papers from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat.

10.44 am: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav tells PTI that the Congress is more keen on forming the government in Uttar Pradesh in 2022, rather than stopping the BJP from coming to power.

10.41 am: Congress veteran P Chidambaram invokes a poem by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore to say that people will vote for a country “where the mind in without fear”, reports PTI. Criticising BJP chief Amit Shah for saying that Congress cannot ensure the country’s safety, Chidambaram asks who kept the country safe during the three wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971.

10.37 am: Rahul Gandhi apologises for being late to his rallies due to engine trouble.

10.21 am: AIADMK leader Thambidurai, who is at the NDA meeting in Varanasi, says they will win all seats in Tamil Nadu, reports News18. “We are here to support and give our solidarity to PM Modi. Yesterday’s roadshow was a grand show. When Amma was alive, she was close to Modi.”

10.13 am: Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan says the people of Varanasi have already chosen their PM, reports News18. “Modi wave is on and mahagathbandhan should forget about having their prime minister till 2024,” he adds.

10.07 am: Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar and Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan meet BJP President Amit Shah in Varanasi.

10.03 am: Encouraging people to vote in large numbers, Narendra Modi says, “We have to break a few records. We have to ensure that we break the overall polling record. I could not achieve this in Gujarat but I believe that you can do this.”

9.55 am: Modi says voters are fighting the battle of 2019. “I feel that yesterday we won the Kashi Lok Sabha seat,” he adds.

Read more here

‘There is a pro-incumbency wave in India for the first time,’ Modi tells BJP workers in Varanasi

9.46 am: Modi says that for the first time since Independence, there is a pro-incumbency wave. “It is because of our workers that there is excitement in the country,” he adds.

9.41 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses BJP workers in Varanasi.

9.37 am: An FIR was filed against BJP’s Bengusarai candidate Giriraj Singh on Thursday for “hurting religious sentiments”, reports The Indian Express. The Union minister allegedly violated the model code of conduct by making controversial remarks against Muslims.

Addressing an election rally at GD College in Begusarai on Wednesday, Singh had said: “Those who cannot say Vande Mataram or cannot respect the motherland, the nation will never forgive them. My ancestors died at the Simaria ghat and did not need a grave but you need three handspans of space.” BJP chief Amit Shah was also present at the rally.

Read more here

Lok Sabha elections: BJP minister Giriraj Singh booked for remark against Muslims in Begusarai

9.33 am: Actors Shabana Azmi and Prakash Raj on Thursday campaigned for CPI candidate from Begusarai Kanhaiya Kumar. Speaking at an election rally at Chamaria Maidan, Azmi said the BJP failed to deliver on any of the poll promises made in 2014. “BJP is aware that they have not fulfilled any promises and therefore they are resorting to their old tactics of inciting communal tension to win elections,” she alleged, according to India Today.

Kumar is contesting against BJP’s Giriraj Singh.

9.25 am: Fifty turmeric farmers in Nizamabad district of Telangana will contest the Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi parliamentary constituency. “Our intention is to draw nation-wide attention to the problems of turmeric farmers. We don’t want to campaign against Modi or any other candidate. We shall make an appeal to the people to support our legitimate demand,” Nizamabad district turmeric farmers’ association president P Tirupati Reddy tells Hindustan Times.

9.22 am: Meeting of NDA leader under way in Varanasi.

9.07 am: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh says Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP were trying to hide behind the guise of nationalism to cover up their failures over the past five years. Pitching Narendra Modi as the strongest prime minister for the country is an attempt to sell a man by the BJP to India, he tells The Hindu in an interview. “If the BJP comes to power again they will break the whole system of our unity,” he adds.

9.03 am: BJP chief Amit Shah will address a public rally in Rajasthan’s Jalore. He will also attend a roadshow in Jodhpur.

9.02 am: Congress President Rahul Gandhi will address rallies in Bihar, Maharashtra and Odisha today.

8.57 am: The Election Commission on Thursday revoked its suspension order against IAS officer Mohammed Mohsin for checking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s helicopter in Odisha soon after the Central Administrative Tribunal stayed the poll panel’s order. However, the poll panel has asked the Karnataka government to take disciplinary action against him and debar him from further election activities.

Read more here

EC revokes suspension order of poll official who checked Modi’s chopper in Odisha: Reports

8.54 am: Tejashwi Yadav rules out any rift in the grand alliance with Congress and other regional parties. “We are working as a team... with all allies having a common objective to defeat the BJP-led NDA,” he adds.

8.53 am: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav says the result of the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar will be unexpected. “Just wait. Even the National Democratic Alliance knows it,” he tells the Hindustan Times in an interview.

8.36 am: Narendra Modi will file his nomination from Varanasi today. Other leaders of the National Democratic Alliance, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, are expected to be present. Varanasi will vote on May 19.

8.33 am: After completing his 7-km roadshow in Varanasi on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked the Pulwama terror attack during his speech at Dashashwamedh ghat. “In Pulwama, they made martyrs of 40 of our jawans... After this attack, 42 terrorists in that area have been neutralised. This is our way of working,” he said.

One of Modi’s speeches is under the Election Commission’s scanner for alleged politicisation of the armed forces.

8.31 am: Here are the top updates from Thursday:

  • PM Narendra Modi held a roadshow in Varanasi a day before filing nomination. Addressing another rally in Uttar Pradesh, the prime minister said the Opposition is looking dejected after three phases of Lok Sabha polling. 
  • The Congress named Ajay Rai its candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. There had been speculation earlier that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party’s general secretary in the Uttar Pradesh East region, might be fielded against Modi.
  • Protesting against Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Thakur’s nomination from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, 71 former bureaucrats asked the BJP and PM Modi to denounce her comments against former ATS Chief Hemant Karkare. A retired police official, who had served under former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, has decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections against BJP candidate Pragya Thakur from Bhopal.
  • Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal said that if the BJP retains power after the Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi will be responsible.
  • A group of armed forces veterans have claimed that news agency ANI attempted to “defame” their intentions behind an appeal against the politicisation of the military.