Indian states vote amid latest surge in coronavirus cases

NEW DELHI (AP) — Voters in four Indian states and a union territory cast their ballots yesterday in elections seen as a test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which faces a tough fight to stop the country’s latest surge in coronavirus cases.

News channels showed voters wearing masks as officials carried out temperature checks and tried to maintain physical distancing in lines.

Modi on Twitter requested people, particularly young voters, “vote in record numbers”, as the polls opened in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu states and the federally administered territory of Puducherry.

The elections are seen as crucial for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, to gain a foothold in the northeast and south.

In eastern West Bengal and Assam states, where the third phase of elections is underway, Modi’s party is banking on its strong Hindu nationalist ideology to draw votes. But the contest is keenly watched in West Bengal, where Modi and his top leaders have campaigned heavily to wrest power from the state’s firebrand chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.

An Assamese voter shows the indelible ink mark on her finger after casting her vote at a polling station during the third phase of assembly election in Gauhati, India. PHOTO: AP