Five Indian states to vote in key elections in November – election panel

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Five Indian states will elect new legislatures next month, an independent election panel said on Monday, beginning a process of regional polls ahead of national elections due next year.

The elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram are expected to give an indication of voter mood, especially in the heartland states which are key to the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Votes in all five states will be counted on Dec. 3 and results expected the same day, the panel said.

Modi and BJP remain popular on a national level after nearly a decade in power and surveys suggest he is expected to win a third term in general elections due by May 2024.

Voters, however, are unhappy with high inflation, unemployment and an uneven economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new alliance of 28 opposition parties, called INDIA, has been formed to jointly challenge BJP nationally.

The Congress party, India’s main opposition party which leads the INDIA alliance, is in power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. BJP rules the central state of Madhya Pradesh and its ally is in power in the small northeastern state of Mizoram.

Telangana in the south is ruled by Bharat Rashtra Samithi, a strong regional party.

BJP is expected to face tough fights in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and Modi has been campaigning in these states even before election dates were announced.

Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said the mood in the party is “very positive” and it would win in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana and do well in Mizoram too.

“People are angry, and there are one or two reasons – unemployment, price-rises and growing inequality,” Gandhi told reporters at the party headquarters.

“The BJP has not realised this, but they will soon realise…that what they have done with the country, the hate that they have spread, the attack on institutions, scaring and threatening people, this country has not liked,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from BJP but the party has rejected similar accusations by Gandhi in the past.

(Reporting by YP Rajesh; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Deborah Kyvrikosaios)