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Solar Impulse 2 is in the air again, crossing India and hoping to make it to Myanmar on March 19.

The solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world, with Andre Borschberg at the controls, took off from Ahmedabad at 07:18 local time.

Solar Impulse 2 is heading to Varanasi in India’s Uttar Pradesh region, where it will make a short “pit stop” before pushing on over the Bay of Bengal.

The leg to Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) will be flown by Bertrand Piccard.

The two pilots are taking it in turns to guide Solar Impulse 2 on its circumnavigation of the globe.

So far, they have covered about 2,000km in two segments since beginning the adventure in Abu Dhabi.

It will likely be another five months before they return to the United Arab Emirates, having crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process.

Today’s take-off was delayed by almost two hours because of customs issues.Solar Impulse 2 heads to India

The roughly 1,100km from Ahmedabad to Varanasi is the third leg of the mission and should take Borschberg about 15 hours to complete.

The team will then lay over for a few hours before taking off for Mandalay.

This fourth leg is longer – about 1,500km – and has some tricky conditions to negotiate.

“In Varanasi, we can expect to have foggy mornings, which could be a problem for an early take-off,” explained Christophe Beesau, who works on flight strategy.

“And for leg four, of course, we will cross the Bay of Bengal. This may be challenging because we have often at altitude an important wind, and, on the other hand, due to air traffic control restrictions, we have to keep the track.

“We know that we will have to adjust carefully the flight profile to avoid this problem.”

About two hours before landing in Mandalay, Solar Impulse 2 will have to fly over a big range of mountains up to 3,000m in height.

It will aim to get this done before sunset so that it can then gently descend towards the Myanmar city in the dark.

The Solar Impulse project has already set plenty of world records, including the greatest distance covered in a single solar-powered flight.

This was the 1,468km attained on leg two from Muscat in Oman to Ahmedabad.

The wingspan of the vehicle is 72m, which exceeds that of a 747 jumbo jet airliner. It does, however, only weigh 2.3 tonnes.

Its light weight will be critical to its success over the coming months.

The Pacific and Atlantic crossings will require Solar Impulse 2 to fly non-stop for several days at a time.

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India is voting on the final day of the general election, with crowds turning out in the sacred city of Varanasi, a key battleground.

Opposition BJP leader Narendra Modi is being challenged in the seat by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal.

Opposition BJP leader Narendra Modi is being challenged in the seat by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal

Opposition BJP leader Narendra Modi is being challenged in the seat by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal

Votes are also being cast in 40 other seats in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal states. The first exit polls are expected on Monday evening.

Narendra Modi is ahead in all the opinion polls. Votes will be counted on May 16.

India’s marathon election began on April 7 and has been held in nine phases for security and logistical reasons.

With 814 million eligible voters, it is the world’s biggest exercise in democracy and the governing Congress party is battling the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for power.

Varanasi has been the scene of frenzied political campaigning not seen in the ancient city in decades. The city been turned into a virtual fortress with thousands of police and paramilitaries deployed to ensure peaceful polling.

Narendra Modi is being given a spirited fight by Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, whose army of volunteers is engaged in extensive door-to-door campaigning.

There are a total of 42 candidates in the fray in the seat, including the Congress party’s Ajay Rai, a local political leader.

Correspondents say that this appears to be the most prestigious and high profile battle in the elections – top leaders from the BJP, Congress and AAP have all campaigned here for their candidates in the past weeks.

“This is a very politically conscious city. The epic battle between Mr. Modi and Mr. Kejriwal has pulled the city out of political oblivion,” says Dr. Vishwanath Pandey, who teaches at the Benares Hindu University.

The state of Uttar Pradesh, where Varanasi is located, returns more lawmakers than any other and is often described as India’s battleground state.

Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges River, has long been neglected despite its religious significance and its infrastructure is badly in need of repair.

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Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader Narendra Modi, the man with the biggest chances of winning India’s elections, is to submit his election nomination papers as Indians vote in the sixth phase of their poll.

Narendra Modi arrived in the holy city of Varanasi as supporters from BJP poured onto the streets.

Varanasi will be the scene of an epic battle between Narendra Modi and anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal, who is challenging him there.

There are 117 seats up for grabs on Thursday, but Varanasi votes on May 12.

The ruling Congress party is battling the opposition BJP to win the votes of the 814 million Indians eligible to vote.

About 2,000 candidates are hoping to win over 180 million of those votes as polling takes place in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday.

The southern state of Tamil Nadu, where voting is being held in all 39 seats on Thursday, is a key battleground to watch.

Narendra Modi arrived in the holy city of Varanasi as supporters from BJP poured onto the streets

Narendra Modi arrived in the holy city of Varanasi as supporters from BJP poured onto the streets (photo AFP)

More than 35% of votes had been polled by 11:00 local time.

The main contest is between two powerful regional parties – the ruling AIADMK and the main opposition DMK. The two main national parties are fringe players in the state and have traditionally formed alliances in order to ensure power.

India’s financial capital, Mumbai, is also voting on Thursday in what promises to be a keenly-contested battle between two alliances: the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance against a resurgent BJP-Shiv Sena party.

Mumbai usually doesn’t see very high turnouts – it was just over 41% in the 2009 election – but many here say this time things might be different.

In an area where many Bollywood actors live, superstar Aamir Khan has already cast his vote, while Shahrukh Khan is expected to do so in the afternoon.

The marathon vote is being staggered over five weeks for security and logistical reasons. The nine-phase vote began on April 7 and will conclude on May 12. Votes will be counted on May 16.

The main contest in the election is between the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, and the BJP, led by the charismatic and controversial Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi.

Narendra Modi, who is ahead in all the pre-election opinion polls, is the leader of Gujarat state, which witnessed one of India’s worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

Arvind Kejriwal, contesting against Narendra Modi in Varanasi is at the helm of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man’s) Party, which secured a spectacular result in local polls in Delhi last year and offers a challenge to the main parties.

Several smaller regional parties are also in the fray and if no single party wins a clear majority, they could play a crucial role in the formation of a government.

Any party or a coalition needs a minimum of 272 lawmakers to form a government.

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