July 23, 2024

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India’s ruling party leans on Narendra Modi’s popularity in state elections

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party is fighting a series of tough state elections this month as it tries to quash a reinvigorated opposition and shore up its political dominance ahead of national polls next year.

Five state elections are taking place in November, including head-to-head contests between the BJP and its arch-rival, the opposition Indian National Congress.

Three of the polls are in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — populous states in the northern Hindi belt that form the ruling party’s base — in addition to elections in the prosperous southern state Telangana and Mizoram in the north-east, which are ruled by regional parties. Results from all five polls, which are staggered over the month, are due on December 3.

The BJP has sought to turn the state elections into a referendum on Modi, betting that the prime minister’s popularity will neutralise challengers and set it on a strong footing to clinch a third term in the general election.

While state votes are typically led by regional leaders and contested on local issues, the prime minister has been the BJP’s star campaigner, criss-crossing the country by helicopter to fill a busy schedule of back-to-back rallies.

“People trust Modi,” said Kailash Vijayvargiya, a BJP spokesperson who is contesting a seat in Madhya Pradesh. “If [Modi] can win state elections for the BJP, naturally when he contests for prime minister again, it will have a greater impact on people . . . National elections will be an easy win.”

Five Indian states hold state elections in November

The most competitive states are Rajasthan, which goes to the polls on Saturday and which the BJP hopes to flip from Congress control, and Madhya Pradesh, which voted on November 17 and where the opposition is seeking to unseat Modi’s party.

An average of three opinion polls…

2023-11-24 22:47:26

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