Business and Bollywood vote in India's Phase 5 general elections

Narendra Modi is widely expected to win a third term when the poll concludes early next month.

India's six-week election resumed on May.20. / iStock photo

India's financial capital Mumbai began voting on May.20 when the six-week national elections resumed, with much of the megacity's business and entertainment elite vocal in their support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The 73-year-old leader is widely expected to win a third term when the poll concludes early next month.

"My vote is for the BJP and Modi," said Deepak Mahajan, 42, who works in banking. "There is no other choice if you care about the future of the economy and business. I have always voted this way."

Big conglomerates have bestowed upon Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a campaign war chest that dwarfs its rivals, while Bollywood stars have backed its ideological commitment to more closely align the country's majority religion and its politics.

Data published this year showed that the BJP was by far the single biggest beneficiary of electoral bonds, a contentious political donation tool since ruled illegal by India's top court.

Leading companies and wealthy businesspeople gave the party $730 million, accounting for just under half of all donations made under the scheme in the past five years.

Conglomerate owners support Modi's government because it caters to the needs of India's "existing oligarchic business elite", Deepanshu Mohan of OP Jindal Global University told AFP.

Lower corporate tax rates, less red tape and a reduction in "municipal regulatory corruption" have also helped Modi win the affection of corporate titans, he said.

N Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Tata Sons, a sprawling Indian conglomerate with interests ranging from cars and software to salt and tea, cast his ballot at a polling station in an upper-class Mumbai neighborhood.

"It's a great privilege to have the opportunity to vote," he told reporters. "And I would request all Mumbaikars to come and exercise their franchise and vote today."

Bollywood stars

This year in the town of Ayodhya, Modi presided over the inauguration of a grand temple to the deity Ram.

Construction of the temple fulfilled a longstanding demand of Hindu activists and was widely celebrated across the country.

The ceremony was attended by hundreds of eminent Indians including Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani, whose family donated $300,000 to the temple's trust.

Also present were cricket star and Mumbai native Sachin Tendulkar along with actor Amitabh Bachchan - the single most famous product of Bollywood, as the financial hub's film industry is known.

Numerous screen stars have established themselves as vocal champions of Modi's administration since he was swept to office a decade ago.

Former soap actress Smriti Irani is one of the government's most recognised ministers and beat India's most prominent opposition leader Rahul Gandhi in the contest for her current parliamentary seat in 2019.