MUMBAI (Reuters) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi spearheaded his party’s campaign for elections later this week in Maharashtra state, knowing that victory in the home of India’s financial hub Mumbai will make it easier to push through economic reforms.
The smaller northern state of Haryana also votes on Wednesday. But it is the western state of Maharashtra that will provide the best test of how well Modi’s appeal is holding up, five months after he stormed to power in a general election with promises to mend a country battered by corruption scandals, high inflation, and sharply slowing growth.
Modi has campaigned personally in Maharashtra, betting he can help his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win big in a state with a population of 110 million spread across an area the size of Italy.
Local polls predict the BJP will win, but perhaps only with a narrow margin. Newspaper Mail Today’s survey showed the party is close to gaining the 145 seats needed to clinch a majority in the 288-member state assembly. Maharashtra, along with Haryana, announces results on Oct 19.
The BJP surprised analysts by breaking off a decades-old alliance with Shiv Sena, a right-wing regional party popular among the region’s Marathi people that is now expected to provide formidable competition.
The opposition Congress party, which has ruled Maharashtra with an ally for 15 years, faces defeat on the same anti-incumbency wave that toppled it from power in the general election but retains pockets of support in the state.