Key test for Modi and Rahul Gandhi, with eight states to hold elections

  • Eight Indian states, including Karnataka, go to the polls in 2018 in what analysts see as a crucial barometer of voters ahead of the general election in 2019.
  • Polling is already underway in the north-eastern states of Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to increase its influence.
  • Voting in Tripura is taking place on 18 Feb 18 while Nagaland and Meghalaya will go to the polls on 27 Feb 18. Election results should be out on 3 Mar 18.
  • Apart from Karnataka, which is ruled by the opposition Congress party, elections will also be taking place in a number of states controlled by the BJP, including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram.
  • The elections are seen as important for the BJP as well as Mr Modi and his government because of widespread unhappiness over falling incomes, particularly among farmers, and disgruntlement over poor implementation of a goods and services tax. Many voters have also been critical of the impact of the demonetisation of high-value currency notes in Nov 16.
  • The BJP won in the recent election in Gujarat, Mr Modi’s home state, but by a slimmer margin than anticipated. The party lost the Rajasthan by-elections in Jan 18.
  • But the spate of polls in 2018 will also be crucial for Mr Rahul Gandhi, the newly installed president of the Congress party. The Congress has suffered a series of electoral losses in state elections and observers say Mr Gandhi will have to prove his mettle as party leader.
  • “The elections will reflect the mood of the people and whether Mr Modi’s popularity has gone down,” said Dr N. Bhaskara Rao of the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.
  • “But these elections are more important for Rahul Gandhi than Modi. It will show whether he can lead the Congress party to an election win,” he added.

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