By Jeffrey Gettleman and Emma Cott
The results of India's election will be announced on Thursday, and exit polls indicate that the right-wing populist Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take another five -year term
Modes are a divisive figure. Critics say his Hindu nationalist politics have pitted Hindus against the country's Muslim minority, while his base enthusiastically defends his record on the economy and national security.
Now, that may be changing
That's because Kerala is home to Sabarimala Temple, one of Hinduism's holiest shrines. In September of last year, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to block women of childbearing age from entering Sabarimala. Traditionally, women are 10 to 50 years old because of the celibate deity, Ayyappa, who is said to live there. The Supreme Court decision incensed religious Hindus. They called it an attack on their faith. Modes' party seized the political opportunity, helping fuel violent protests that lasted for months. They called themselves the party that stands up for tradition, and tried to turn that into votes for the B.J.P.
India is a deeply religious country. It is also a secular democracy. These two things are getting harder to square than the B.J.P. uses the Sabarimala controversy to ride a wave of Hindu nationalism into the most secular parts of the country. If Modi's party is able to pick up new seats in Parliament from Kerala, it could predict the direction of the entire country.