Two Indian states, Punjab in the north and Goa in the west, both ruled by the country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), went to polls on Saturday.
This is the first electoral test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party, following the demonetization move in November last year that has been slammed by opposition parties, who have accused the central government of causing hardships to the common people.
Voting began in both the states at 8 a.m. local time and will go on till 6 p.m. local time. The results will be out on March 11, along with the counting for three other states — Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the north, and Manipur in the northeast.
Modi took to social media early in the morning to urge youths to cast their ballots. “Urging people of Punjab & Goa to turnout in record numbers & vote in the Assembly elections. I particularly urge my young friends to vote,” he tweeted.
In both the states, it’s a three-way battle between the BJP, the main opposition Congress party and the anti-graft Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by civil servant-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal.
In Punjab, there is a intense competition this time for 117 assembly seats between the ruling coalition, comprising the BJP and the regional Akali Dal, and the Congress party which has fielded former Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu as its star candidate.
AAP also stands a fair chance to dethrone the ruling coalition that has ruled Punjab for the past 10 years and eyeing for another five-year tenure, said experts.
In India’s smallest state of Goa with 40 assembly seats, the battle is again between the BJP, the Congress and the debutant AAP. Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar could stage a comeback as the state’s Chief Minister if the BJP retains power this time, as hinted by party chief Amit Shah.
Experts said that the BJP stands a fair chance of retaining power in Goa and AAP a fair chance of dethroning the Congress as the main opposition party.
“For the BJP, it’s about retaining power in these two states and a referendum for Modi’s cash ban move, for the Congress, it’s about staging a comeback. And for the AAP, it’s all about expanding its base from the Indian capital to other parts of India,” said Prof Ajay Sharma, a political analyst. Endit