In­dia’s rul­ing BJP seen los­ing ground in key state polls

Kuwait Times - - International -

NEW DELHI: In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s rul­ing party is likely to lose two heart­land states while a third is too close to call, exit polls showed on Fri­day in the fi­nal test of pop­u­lar­ity be­fore a na­tional elec­tion due by May next year.

Sur­veys broad­cast at the end of vot­ing for five state as­sem­blies showed the rul­ing Hindu na­tion­al­ist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trail­ing be­hind the ri­val Congress party in some ar­eas.

The ac­tual votes will be counted on Tues­day, and exit polls have been wrong in the past, partly be­cause of the sheer scale of In­dian elec­tions in­volv­ing mil­lions of votes.

Still, nearly all the polls showed that the Congress - led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the NehruGandhi fam­ily - will win a clear ma­jor­ity in western Ra­jasthan state and scrape through in east­ern Ch­hat­tis­garh, ac­cord­ing a sur­vey of sur­veys pulled to­gether by NDTV.

In Mad­hya Pradesh, the same polls sug­gested the BJP and the Congress were locked in a fight down to the wire.

The com­bined sur­veys showed the BJP win­ning 110 seats, the Congress 108, and smaller groups 12 in the 230mem­ber house. To rule, a party re­quires 116 seats. The three states are part of the north­ern Hindi belt, a bas­tion of the rul­ing Hindu na­tion­al­ists. Clues

“The BJP is strug­gling ev­ery­where, for all its bravado,” said Juhi Singh, a spokesman of the re­gional Sa­ma­jwadi Party. Modi, who came to power with a sweep­ing ma­jor­ity in 2014, has been praised for im­prov­ing gov­er­nance and cut­ting some red tape, but has been crit­i­cized for fail­ing to cre­ate enough jobs for the thou­sands of young peo­ple en­ter­ing the jobs mar­ket ev­ery month.

He has also faced crit­i­cism for al­low­ing hard­lin­ers in his party to un­der­mine In­dia’s sec­u­lar foun­da­tions.

For­eign in­vestors who largely re­main bullish on In­dia’s long-term prospects, are watch­ing the state polls closely for clues to the na­tional vote. “The re­sult would be con­sis­tent with what most polls are show­ing: that we are head­ing for hung par­lia­ment,” said Jan Dehn, head of research at emerg­ing mar­kets fund man­ager Ash­more.

“The mar­ket may dis­count the re­sults a lit­tle bit given these are state elec­tions and there are of­ten protest votes.” But a di­vided par­lia­ment would make it dif­fi­cult for the in­com­ing gov­ern­ment to carry out re­forms in the bank­ing sec­tor and other ar­eas, he said.

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