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Indian assembly elections start today


Indian assembly elections start today

Photo: EPA/Sanjay Baid

The Indian states of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry begin elections for their local assemblies today. Votes will receive a final tally on May 2.

This is India’s most important polling season since the 2019 general election. Some 824 assembly seats are up for grabs and all states have had political shakeups in recent years that make the outcomes harder to predict. Serious competition is expected in Bengal between the incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — the latter, whose national affiliate controls the central government, has poached opposition leaders and greatly increased its recruitment drives.

Expect the Hindu-nationalist BJP to perform well in this election. Aggressive campaigning in West Bengal has caused major hemorrhaging of TMC membership that will be difficult for the incumbent leadership to overcome. A strong state-level performance would also boost the national government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, which has suffered recently. This could ensure the BJP maintains power at the national level. In the short-term, expect the BJP to fast-track citizenship for religious refugees (excepting Muslims) from neighbouring countries. In the medium-term, the party has focused its attention on infrastructure development, benefits for government workers and organised labour, and economic investment to promote native business development.

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