Supporters of the rightwing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) wear masks of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they listen to the speeches of the party leaders during a public rally in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 17 June 2023. EFE-EPA/FAROOQ KHAN

India opens regional polls in key test for Modi before 2024 general election

New Delhi, Nov 7 (EFE).- India began staggered regional polls on Tuesday, in a test of popularity for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ahead of his bid for a third consecutive term in the general election scheduled for next year.

Over 160 million people are eligible to vote in the elections, which will be held in five states over four phases until Nov.30. Votes will be counted on Dec.3, and the results are expected on the same day, as Indians vote using electronic voting machines.

The key contest in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana states is mainly between Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC), which has been historically led by the Nehru-Gandhi family.

While Modi aims to consolidate power in preparation for the parliamentary election scheduled for May 2024, the INC, led by Rahul Gandhi, is striving to revitalize India’s oldest political party after a series of electoral defeats since 2014 when it lost power to the BJP.

On Tuesday morning, thousands of voters queued outside polling stations in the northeastern Mizoram and central Chhattisgarh states to open the phased election process.

The Congress is fighting to retain power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, two of the few states it still controls.

The BJP holds power in Madhya Pradesh and is part of a ruling coalition in Mizoram.

The state elections will serve as a barometer for Modi’s popularity as well as the Congress’ revival efforts by trying to cobble a coalition of opposition parties, called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), to challenge the BJP and prevent it from returning to power.

However, the rivalries in the opposition camp have forestalled unity efforts, giving Modi an edge. EFE