India elections

Strong showing for Modi's BJP

Party does well in five states, say exit polls

NEW DELHI • Exit polls for Legislative Assembly elections indicate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has put up a strong showing in five Indian states.

The elections are being seen as a gauge of both his popularity and his chances of returning for a second term when the next general election is held in 2019.

The results are also being seen as a referendum on his decision to demonetise high-value currency notes last November, in a bid to crack down on graft and tax evasion.

Politically, a win in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous, would strengthen the BJP-led coalition's hand in selecting India's new president - in elections likely to take place in July, reported Bloomberg.

However, a loss there would crimp Mr Modi's ability to initiate reforms and push forward legislation on issues such as land and labour.

The states' election results are set to be declared tomorrow.

According to TV news channel NDTV, exit polls suggest the BJP is ahead in Uttar Pradesh. It has a population of 204 million and sends more lawmakers than any other state to both Houses of Parliament.

The elections are being seen as a gauge of both Prime Minister Modi's popularity and his chances of returning for a second term when the next general election is held in 2019. The results are also being seen as a referendum on his decision to demonetise high-value currency notes last November, in a bid to crack down on graft and tax evasion.

With such high stakes, Mr Modi has invested heavily in campaigning in the highly caste-ridden state, holding about two dozen rallies and roadshows to highlight his policies on farmers and the poor, reported Bloomberg.

There are 403 seats up for grabs in the state's assembly. Although the BJP is expected to bag the most seats, three polls showed a hung assembly, with no party having a clear majority. One poll showed the BJP clearing the halfway mark of 202 seats, reported NDTV.

However, in the state of Punjab, the ruling BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal alliance was projected to have suffered a setback. Either the Congress party or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is expected to form the state's next government.

The BJP has also picked up the state of Uttarakhand, according to most polls, and is likely to win the north-eastern state of Manipur from the Indian National Congress.

In Uttarakhand, which has 70 seats, three exit polls predicted a landslide win for the BJP. However, a fourth poll indicated that the BJP and Congress were tied.

Three exit polls for Goa, which has 40 seats, showed the BJP ahead.

Manipur - with 60 seats - looks to be heading for a BJP government, reported NDTV.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2017, with the headline 'Strong showing for Modi's BJP'. Print Edition | Subscribe