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As India's Polls Open, Vendors Are Cashing In With Election-Themed Fashion

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Polls opened today in India's elections, which will last six weeks. And some savvy vendors are cashing in with election-themed fashion. NPR's Lauren Frayer takes us shopping in Mumbai.

ASHOK KARIYA: Ma'am, this is a Georgette material. A nice material.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Like silk or chiffon.

KARIYA: Chiffon.

FRAYER: Ashok Kariya is a sari designer designer who drapes women in luxurious multicolored material. He shows me his newest creation designed exclusively for Indian elections, which are going on right now.

So it's this beautiful sort of shimmering slightly translucent maybe 20 yards of fabric - orange flowers. And then right in the middle there's Prime Minister Modi's face, and he's sort of flexing his muscle like a fist up in the air.

Narendra Modi, who is currently running for a second term as prime minister. The rationale for putting his face on women's clothing, salesman Devang Dhanki tries to explain.

DEVANG DHANKI: Because he's a very popular person in India, so we appreciate him.

FRAYER: What about Rahul Gandhi? Do you have a sari of him?

DHANKI: No, we don't carry a Rahul Gandhi sari.

FRAYER: That's Modi's main challenger in this election. Other shops do stock rival politicians, Rahul and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, but not this shop. And before I know it, I'm enveloped in Modi chiffon.

What do I do? Should I put my hands up in the air? Wrap it around me?

DHANKI: You buy dresses.

FRAYER: But I don't know. I'm a journalist. Am I allowed to wear clothing with a politician's face on it?

DHANKI: You go to the temple. You pray. See, wear this sari, ma'am. You like? That's all.

FRAYER: I look to my fellow female shoppers for guidance.

DOLLY SHAH: It looks very pretty and decent.

FRAYER: Dolly Shah is here with her daughter.

SHAH: We buy many saris to gift somebody because we have a marriage at my uncle's place.

FRAYER: Will you think about buying a Modi sari?

SHAH: No, no, no, no. If we give them Modi saris and they don't like...

FRAYER: You run a risk of offending somebody.

SHAH: Offending, yeah.

FRAYER: Wrong politician.

SHAH: Yeah.

FRAYER: She says that would be a fashion faux pas this election season. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.