Poll test for BJP; stakes high for Mamata, Jaya
BIG FIGHT EC announces elections for TN, WB, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry
NEW DELHI: Elections to four states and a union territory will be held over six weeks beginning April 4, in a test of whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can expand its footprint in regions where it has been traditionally weak.
The vote assumes significance at a time when the country is caught up in a political upheaval over a debate over nationalism and alleged religious intolerance, even as economic growth slips.
The controversies have given a handle to non-BJP parties which are hoping to further corner Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his party’s humiliating defeat in elections in Delhi and Bihar last year.
The vote could have a bearing on the degree and pace of coalescence of anti-BJP forces, a phenomenon party president Amit Shah recently described as “BJP-versus-all or Narendra Modi-versus-all”.
The elections are also important for Modi to improve the government’s tally in the Rajya Sabha, where a lack of majority has stalled the government’s economic reforms agenda and delayed the passage of a goods and services tax bill.
The results of the latest round of state polls will be announced on May 19, the Election Commission said on Friday. About 170 million people will be eligible to vote in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry in Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi (centre) and election commissioners OP Rawat (right) and AK Joti announce the schedule for Assembly elections, on Friday. the south and Assam and West Bengal in the east.
The states going to the polls are ruled by regional parties, barring Kerala as well as Assam where the Congress is seeking a fourth term.
Although Prime Minister Modi’s popularity is probably still holding up, the BJP has been buffeted by a spate of political controversies, including grow- ing student protests on top university campuses. Slowing economic growth has only worsened a crisis in the countryside, where two successive droughts have pushed farmers deeper into debt and forced dozens to commit suicide.
The only realistic chance the BJP is said to have in this round of assembly elections is in Assam where it has aligned with small regional groups to tap into possible anti-incumbency.
The stakes are also high for two of the country’s three women chief ministers, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee and AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa who rule in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu respectively. They are likely to go it alone in the polls.
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