October 6, 2018 / 1:46 PM / 6 months ago

Five states to go to polls at year-end in test for Modi

Voters line up in a queue outside a polling booth to cast their vote during the state assembly election in Maval town, located in Rajasthan, December 1, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Five Indian states will go to the polls later this year, the country’s election commissioner said on Saturday, in a test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity ahead of his re-election bid in May 2019.

The state elections come at a time when the government is on the back foot with fuel prices surging, the rupee weakening and the stock market in a tailspin.

High fuel prices and the rising cost of fertilisers are also hurting Indian farmers, who voted overwhelmingly for Modi in 2014. A fall in rural incomes also risks damaging that support next year.

Voting in Chattisgarh will be held in two phases, on November 12 and 20. Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram will go to the polls on November 28. Voting in Rajasthan and Telangana will be on December 7.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which Modi belongs to, is in power in three of the five states.

Modi said in a tweet on Saturday that the BJP has been running successful governments that have enhanced prosperity and inclusive growth in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“I urge the people of these states to bless BJP once again so that we can work tirelessly to build a New India,” he said, while also urging voters in Mizoram and Telangana to back his party.

Writing by Aditi Shah; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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