NEW DELHI: Five Indian states will go to the polls later this year, the country’s election commissioner said on Saturday, in a test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity ahead of his re-election bid in May 2019.

The state elections come at a time when the government is on the back foot with fuel prices surging, the rupee weakening and the stock market in a tailspin.

High fuel prices and the rising cost of fertilisers are also hurting Indian farmers, who voted overwhelmingly for Modi in 2014. A fall in rural incomes also risks damaging that support next year.

Voting in the central state of Chattisgarh will be held in two phases, on Nov 12 and 20. Madhya Pradesh state in central India and Mizoram in the country’s northeast will go to the polls on Nov 28. Voting in the western state of Rajasthan and the southern state of Telangana will be on Dec 7.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which Modi belongs to, is in power in three of the five states.

Modi said in a tweet on Saturday that the BJP has been running successful governments that have enhanced prosperity and inclusive growth in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“I urge the people of these states to bless BJP once again so that we can work tirelessly to build a New India,” he said, while also urging voters in Mizoram and Telangana to back his party.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2018

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