Modi’s party, allies win in Bihar state

PATNA, INDIA (AP) – India’s ruling party and its allies have won a key state election seen as a barometer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and his regional ally Janata Dal United won 125 seats of Bihar state’s 243-seat legislature, India’s election commission website showed yesterday. A coalition of more than three political parties opposed to the incumbent alliance was trailing with 110 seats.

The counting process took much longer than usual as more electronic voting machines were deployed to avoid crowding in polling centres in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.

“Democracy has once again won in Bihar with the blessings of the people,” Modi said in a tweet. Bihar in eastern India is its second-most populous state and one of its poorest. Control of the key electoral battleground was seen as a referendum on Modi’s popularity.

His opponents have criticised what they call his government’s inept handling of the pandemic, which has led to more than 127,000 death so far nationwide.

Modi’s party and his alliance partner were pitted against the resurgent Rashtriya Janata Dal party, led by a 31-year-old Tejashwi Yadav.

The young leader campaigned in an alliance with the Indian National Congress, the country’s main opposition party, and some left-leaning parties.

The alliance made employment for youth its main election promise in the state where the unemployment rate is nearly double the national average.

Voters display their identity cards outside a polling station at Paliganj, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. PHOTO: AP