Modi faces im­por­tant tests in key states be­fore his re­elec­tion bid

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD - AFP

The In­dian state of Ra­jasthan voted Fri­day in an elec­tion that is a key test for Prime Minister Naren­dra Modi, with a lo­cal princess rep­re­sent­ing his party fac­ing a tough fight to stay in power.

The vote in the west­ern state fa­mous for its palaces, forts and deserts, home to 47 mil­lion peo­ple, is one of five state elec­tions be­fore Modi runs for a sec­ond term in na­tional polls in 2019.

Re­sults from Ra­jasthan, as well as Te­lan­gana, also vot­ing on Fri­day, plus from Mad­hya Pradesh, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Mi­zo­ram – which have al­ready cast bal­lots – will be pub­lished on De­cem­ber 11.

The most closely watched will be the cen­tral state of Mad­hya Pradesh, which polls sug­gest Modi’s BJP might suf­fer a bit­ter de­feat af­ter 15 years in power.

The con­tests are seen as a dry run for 2019, with Modi and his likely ri­val from the Congress party Rahul Gandhi.

Va­sund­hara Raje, Ra­jasthan’s chief minister and a charis­matic “Ma­ha­rani” or fe­male Ma­haraja rep­re­sent­ing Modi’s BJP, swept to power in a land­slide vic­tory in 2013.

But her per­sonal pop­u­lar­ity has waned, with crit­ics call­ing her au­to­cratic and out of touch with the in­ter­ests of or­di­nary peo­ple. Her gov­ern­ment has also been crit­i­cized for fail­ing to boost in­vest­ment and cre­ate jobs.

Ra­jasthan is one of In­dia’s few re­gions where lo­cal royal fam­i­lies have suc­cess­fully tran­si­tioned to demo­cratic pol­i­tics.

Ay­o­d­hya Prasad Gaur, au­thor of a book on one of the state’s lead­ing royal fam­i­lies, told AFP that the no­bil­ity’s pop­u­lar­ity had to do with their “per­ma­nence” com­pared to or­di­nary politi­cians who just “come and go.”

“The erst­while rulers of Jodh­pur still re­ceive a wed­ding in­vite – just like kings of ear­lier times – from hun­dreds if not thou­sands of peo­ple in the re­gion each year. And they main­tain that re­la­tion­ship by send­ing a to­ken amount as a gift for ev­ery in­vite they re­ceive,” Gaur told AFP.

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