Five states to go to polls at year-end in test for Modi
new delhi — Five states will go to the polls later this year, the country’s election commissioner said on Saturday, in a test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity ahead of his re-election bid in May 2019.
The state elections come at a time when the government is on the back foot with fuel prices surging, the rupee weakening and the stock market in a tailspin.
High fuel prices and the rising cost of fertilisers are also hurting Indian farmers, who voted overwhelmingly for Modi in 2014. A fall in rural incomes also risks damaging that support next year.
Voting in the central state of Chattisgarh will be held in two phases, on November 12 and 20. Madhya Pradesh state in central India and Mizoram in the country’s northeast will go to the polls on November 28. Voting in the western state of Rajasthan and the southern state of Telangana will be on December 7.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which Modi belongs to, is in power in three of the five states — western Rajasthan, central Madhya Pradesh and eastern Chhattisgarh.
BJP’s performance in these states, part of India’s bellwether Hindi speaking heartland, will reflect both on Modi’s personal popularity and the state of the main, Nehru-Gandhi dynasty led opposition Congress party before 2019.
Congress party president Rahul Gandhi has been facing questions over his leadership after a series of electoral setbacks for the party since 2014, when Modi took office.
The BJP hopes to wrest power in northeastern Mizoram, one of only two states directly ruled by the Congress, and will challenge a popular regional party in southern Telangana state.
Modi said in a tweet on Saturday that the BJP has been running successful governments that have enhanced prosperity and inclusive growth in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“I urge the people of these states to bless BJP once again so that we can work tirelessly to build a New India,” he said, while also urging voters in Mizoram and Telangana to back his party.
The results for all five states will be declared on December 11.
Modi continues to be the most popular national leader according to most recent surveys but faces challenges from emerging alliances between regional and national opponents. His party is also battling criticism and anti-incumbency over issues including lack of jobs and falling farm incomes.
Farmers have called for free electricity, loan waivers and higher support prices for agricultural goods.
Clashes broke out on the outskirts of the national capital earlier this week when thousands of farmers from a powerful regional farmers’ union tried to enter Delhi to protest for their demands.