Win or Lose in Key State Polls, Modi’s BJP Seen Losing Ground Before National Vote

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PM Modi and his party’s popularity is in doubt as exit polls for elections in five Indian states showed inconclusive projections.

NEW DELHI (Dec 7, 2018) — Can Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party retain its Saffron spread which was predicted by The Economist’s EIU last year? May be not.

The Hindutva-driven BJP 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 BJP trailing behind the rival secularist 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 Nehru-Gandhi family – will win a clear majority in western Rajasthan state and scrape through in eastern Chhattisgarh, according to 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 230-member 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.

“The BJP is struggling everywhere, for all its bravado,” said Juhi Singh, a spokesperson of the regional Samajwadi Party.

Modi, came to power with a sweeping majority in 2014, riding on an extremist manifesto, promising to rejuvenate Hindutva and Hindu supremacy, which is contrary to secularism prescribed in the Indian Constitution. However, he 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 and his alliance partners to undermine India’s secular foundations–the result has been disastrous as unbridled forces of terror were unleashed on the minorities, wreaking havoc on the hapless souls.

Foreign investors 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 many areas, he said.

According to Suresh Cayyur, an Indian American professional, Modi and his party might look to play the same Hindutva card again in the general elections.

Many political pundits opine that in view of the lackluster performance of the BJP, the farmer’s movement and failing to live up to its electoral promises of spiraling India’s economy, annexing Kashmir into India and subjugating Pakistan, BJP may not be able to win elections 2019 and may have to opt for a coalition government.

This will seriously tie down the hands of the extremists and protagonists of Hindutva, Cayyur added. In such a scenario, “BJP may have to resort to the Hindu-Muslim election card; albeit it may be the last resort for the revival of party politics”. I see rough times ahead, he added.

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