Best of AP — Second Winner


Indian voters dissect Modi’s politics while traversing the country by train

Passengers travel in a general compartment of the Thirukkural Express, India, Saturday, April 20, 2024. AP PHOTO / MANISH SWARUP

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An AP team in India spent 48 hours on one of the longest train rides in the country from the north to the south, chronicling a diverse and vibrant democracy deeply divided by class and political belief, amid one of the country’s most consequential general elections.

India’s overcrowded trains are seen as a metaphor for its chaotic, diverse and unequal democracy, riven by class, caste and religion. A lifeline for millions of travelers, the train is a microcosm of Indian society where the differences in language, food, class and culture in contemporary India intersect with the deep political engagement of ordinary citizens.

As the world’s largest democracy holds one of most consequential elections ever, the India team decided to go on an 1,800-mile (2,900-kilometer) train journey to understand what matters to the Indian voters and what has changed in the 10 years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule.

New Delhi writer Sheikh Saaliq, chief photographer Manish Swarup and senior video journalist Rishi Lekhi spent 48 hours on the train – one of the longest rides from the north to the south — recording numerous conversations about life and politics as they moved from low-fare cars crammed with poor migrants to air-conditioned sleeper cabins filled with middle-class families.

Preparations began months in advance to imagine the shape and form of the narrative in all formats that would help showcase the story of a fast-growing economy that is grappling with sharpening religious divisions as well as widening inequalities.

Ahead of the travel, the crew got together with the digital design team including Darrell Allen, Panagiotis Mouzakis and Pavan Mahal, and Top Stories editor Brad Foss, to discuss the concept and the visualization for the project. The aim was to lay out a clear plan for reporting, writing and filming, especially the inputs needed for digital presentation and social planning. 

The close partnership between the teams at each step led to a richly reported, visually compelling package, including an innovatively designed immersive digital project.

The package served both traditional and digital customers. The sounds, sights and texture of the images both inside and outside the train captured the voices and mood of ordinary voters as the country’s six-week-long election enters its final stages.

For an exclusive, visual-led story telling with an innovative digital presentation, provided both our traditional and digital customers with a unique, people-centric view of the world’s largest democratic exercise, Swarup, Lekhi, Saaliq, Allen and Mouzakis earn Best of the AP — Second Winner.

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