Polls are open in two eastern states considered critical for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party.
Voting began in Assam and West Bengal in state elections that will show how support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds up after a coronavirus-stricken year and months of farmer protests against his farm reforms.
Reelected to a second five-year term in 2019, Modi’s grip on power is not in jeopardy, but elections in the two eastern states on Saturday are the first since farmers launched protests that took place. are mainly held in the north of the capital. , New Delhi.
It was the first phase of voting in both states and the results won’t be known for months.
Despite all the concerns about the coronavirus, campaigning politicians have often shown little respect for social distancing.
But as people waited in long lines outside West Bengal polling stations on Saturday, security staff and election officials handed out masks, disinfectants and gloves.
The campaign was marked by violence, with Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party claiming that more than 100 of its workers have been killed in the past two years, with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party making similar claims.
Activists from both sides have been shot or hacked to death, their bodies sometimes hanging from trees.
The BJP currently controls a dozen of India’s 28 states, with alliance partners in several more. But he never won power in West Bengal, once a communist stronghold for more than three decades.
The country’s fourth most populous state, with 90 million people, is key to controlling the upper house of the federal parliament whose members are elected by state assemblies.
Neighboring Assam, home to 32 million people, is polarized along ethnic and religious lines, with immigration from neighboring Bangladesh being one of the countryside’s biggest problems.
A 2019 ‘citizenship list’ in Assam state left nearly two million people who were unable to prove they were Indian, many of whom were Muslims, a process many fear that the BJP wants to roll out across the country.