(Bloomberg) -- Indian voters are getting worn-out by jingoistic rhetoric and violence as the world’s largest election heads toward the final lap with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party fighting to retain a majority.
A candidate from Modi’s party was condemned for calling the assassin of India’s iconic leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a “patriot,” while a BJP party worker was arrested for making a caricature of West Bengal state’s chief minister who opposes Modi. BJP, which has made India’s attack on what the government called terrorist camps inside Pakistan an election issue, traded insults with the opposition Congress party, with both groups sidestepping the growing rural distress and an unemployment crisis.
“People are unhappy with both the parties,” said Yatindra Singh Sisodia, director at the Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research in Ujjain. “Some feel Modi is the best pick out of the available options. Others are fed up of his jingoism.”
The battle has become fierce as the BJP tries to boost its tally in West Bengal, dominated by the regional All India Trinamool Congress party, and maintain its grip on Uttar Pradesh, India’s most politically important state, after two rivals formed an alliance to take on Modi. Parts of Madhya Pradesh, where the ruling group was ousted in local elections in 2018, is also going to the polls on Sunday.
Politicians are making controversial remarks to divert voters’ attention from the real issues, said Ajay Singh, a professor at the Vikram University in the state of Madhya Pradesh. “But it’s not necessary these attacks will always translate into votes. This tactic may backfire in this election.”
The final and the seventh day of voting will also test the popularity of Modi in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, from where he won the 2014 elections. Varanasi has played “a key role in both my spiritual and political journey,” Modi said in a video message to people there, seeking their support.
Results of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the most lawmakers to parliament, is crucial for BJP to win a majority. The BJP, which won 71 of 80 seats in that state in the last election, is facing a formidable challenge from a coalition of regional outfits led by the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Thirteen seats of Uttar Pradesh will go to poll on Sunday.
In Madhya Pradesh, it’s a direct fight between the BJP and the Congress. The BJP is seeking to repeat its 2014 performance when it won 27 of the 29 seats.
“What has the BJP done to create jobs?” said Durgesh Chandra, a 27-year-old student in Ujjain. “Ever since Modi came to power we haven’t seen enough job vacancies.” Ujjain in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh will go to polls on May 19. Farmers could be a swing factor in the state, where Congress party has been energized by winning power in December with the promise to waive agricultural loans.
“We are unhappy with both BJP and Congress,’’ said Ravi Anjana, a farmer in Madhya Pradesh, adding that his farm loan has not been waived off yet. “In this situation, we will go with Modi.’’
WHAT TO WATCH:
- Modi to address rally in Madhya Pradesh Friday
- Congress President Rahul Gandhi to address public meeting in Himachal Pradesh Friday
- Exit polls to predict election trends on Sunday evening, official results on May 23
IN THE MEDIA:
- Who is with whom: Parties seek partners as election nears end: India Today
- Lok Sabha Election Boom Time For India’s Best Known Woman Detective: AFP
- Election Commission asks Twitter to take down exit poll-related post: PTI
ELECTION & MARKETS:
- “Elevated market multiples could fall in the event of a hung election or the prospects of policy stasis under an extended and brittle coalition,” Sriyan Pietersz, an investment strategist at Matthews Asia, wrote in a note to investors.
- Fears of Poll ‘Bolt From the Blue’ Has India Markets Worried
- "We have been witnessing the attitude of didi (elder sister) for long and now the country is also seeing it,” Modi said while addressing a poll rally, referring to Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal. “Dedicated to the vision of Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar, our government will install a ‘panchdhatu’ (made up of five metals) statue at the very spot and give a reply to goons of Trinamool Congress." A statue of Bengali icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalized during a road show of BJP President Amit Shah.
- “Modi has promised to rebuild the Vidyasagar statue in Kolkata. Why should we take their (BJP’s) money, Bengal has enough resources,"said Mamata Banerjee, addressing a rally. "The BJP has destroyed 200-year-old heritage of West Bengal, those supporting the party will not be accepted by the society.
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