Eight Indian states, including Karnataka, go to the polls this year in what analysts see as a crucial barometer of voters ahead of the general election next year.
Polling is already underway in the north-eastern states of Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to increase its influence.
Voting in Tripura is taking place on Feb 18 while Nagaland and Meghalaya will go to the polls on Feb 27. Election results should be out on March 3.
Apart from Karnataka, which is ruled by the opposition Congress party, elections will also be taking place place in a number of states controlled by the BJP, including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram.
The elections are seen as important for the BJP as well as Modi and his government because of widespread unhappiness over falling incomes, particularly among farmers, and disgruntlement over poor implementation of a goods and services tax. Many voters have also been critical of the impact of the demonetisation of high-value currency notes in November 2016.
The BJP won in the recent election in Gujarat, Modi’s home state, but by a slimmer margin than anticipated. The party lost the Rajasthan by-elections last month.
But the spate of polls this year will also be crucial for Rahul Gandhi, the newly installed president of the Congress party. The Congress has suffered a series of electoral losses in state elections and observers say Gandhi will have to prove his mettle as party leader.
“The elections will reflect the mood of the people and whether Modi’s popularity has gone down,” said Dr N. Bhaskara Rao of the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.
“But these elections are more important for Rahul Gandhi than Modi. It will show whether he can lead the Congress party to an election win,” he added.