Two Indian states vote in test for Modi

A woman checks the temperature of a voter before he casts his vote at a polling booth during the first phase of the West Bengal state election in Purulia district, India, March 27, 2021. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Voters in India's Assam and West Bengal cast their ballots on Saturday in elections that will indicate how Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's support is holding up after a year of the coronavirus pandemic and months of protests against his farm reforms.

Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah campaigned energetically for their Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal, encouraging defections from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, whose firebrand leader Mamata Banerjee has been chief minister since 2011.

India's fourth most populous state, with 90 million people, was for decades a bastion of communism, and registered a voter turnout of nearly 80% in Saturday's first phase of voting.

Politicians on the campaign trail often showed scant regard for social distancing, but as voters queued patiently at polling centres, security personnel and election workers handed out masks, hand sanitisers and gloves.

Modi was re-elected for a second five-year term in 2019, and his BJP is pushing to extend its influence beyond the 12 out of 28 states where it rules alone, and several others where it is part of a ruling alliance - not least because this would help it to control the upper house of the federal parliament.

It has never won power in West Bengal, and to do well in the state would send a formidable national signal.

"This election in Bengal is important because the BJP for the first time has emerged as a major contender," said Amal Mukhopadhyay, a former professor of political science at Kolkata's Presidency College.

In neighbouring Assam, where a BJP-led alliance is seeking a second term, turnout was over 76% after a day that had begun with voters queuing before the polls opened at 7 a.m.

Voting in West Bengal takes place in eight phases, ending on April 29, and the votes will be counted on May 2.

Assam's third and final phase of voting is on April 6.

(Reporting by Subrata Nagchoudhury in Kolkata and Zarir Hussain in Guwahati; Additional reporting by Rupak De Chowdhuri in Purulia; Writing by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

Next In World

Japan's PM Suga, Tokyo governor Koike discuss Olympics, COVID-19 -Kyodo
Merkel aide warns of COVID-19 surge in Germany over coming weeks
Rumbling meteor lights up Norway, a bit possibly landing near Oslo
UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to 'cower from' COVID
India reports 39,742 new COVID-19 cases in last 24 hours: government
Australians may face longer lockdown after "reckless" mass protests
First task for Afghan forces is to slow Taliban's momentum -Pentagon chief
Hundreds protest ouster of Guatemalan anti-graft crusader
Brazilians take to streets again to demand Bolsonaro's impeachment
Greek police clash with protesters in rally against mandatory vaccinations

Stories You'll Enjoy