Indian prime minister Narendra Modi could suffer electoral losses in Gujarat state elections tomorrow in Ahmedabad, India.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is coming up against minority groups who are campaigning to improve India’s economy against a backdrop of slow growth.
India’s economy hit a three-year low in growth in June, although recent figures have shown a slight improvement.
Modi has been campaigning in Gujarat, his home state where he was chief minister for 12 years before he became prime minister.
The BJP has also been the ruling party in Gujarat for 22 years, but things could soon change.
While he was chief minister, Modi saw his state grow faster than any other in India, however he has not yet succeeded in achieving the same success across India as prime minister.
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Achyut Yagnik, a Gujarat-based political scientist told the Financial Times:
I do not think the BJP will lose the state, but being neck-and-neck is not a good position. The Modi euphoria looks like it is disappearing.
Neither Modi’s national goods and services tax (GST) introduced in July nor his demonetisation policy have been popular.
Sanjay Jagnani, former president of the Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association said that the GST has already alienated Modi’s base, particularly traders and businessmen.
Most traders here are illiterate. They are not able to deal with the complex documents needed for the GST, nor can they afford to pay accountants to deal with them. Many are starting to go out of business. In 2014, all these people [traders] were for the BJP. Now, I would say 30 percent of them will vote against — maybe as many as 50 percent.”
Jagdip Desai, a sanitary ware manufacturer told Reuters that the GST was too complicated for firms to implement properly, which coupled with a slowing economy has resulted in lay offs.
He was recently forced to sack 3,000 workers.
“Modi will have to pay a political price for our financial distress,” he said.
Jignesh Mevani, 37, who is running as an independent candidate representing the Dailit, which is the lowest caste in India’s hierarchy, has called for tactical voting against the BJP.
“Dalits have been harassed like never before in Gujarat but the BJP has remained silent on caste brutalities,” he said. “They are not even prepared to discuss it. The aim is to stop the BJP, not because of any bias or personal problem, but because the BJP is operating like a fascist regime.”
Meanwhile, Amit Shah, the president of the BJP, said the party is convinced that Modi will win Gujarat.
He knows that only an absolute majority in Gujarat polls will legitimise his reforms and silence critics.
The results of the election will be announced on 18 December.