Modi Seeks to Wrest Delhi as His Party Struggles in India States
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, gestures as he speaks during a plenary session on day two of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

Modi Seeks to Wrest Delhi as His Party Struggles in India States

(Bloomberg) -- India is set to hold assembly elections in its capital Delhi, providing a key test for whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party can arrest a trend of losing states to regional and opposition alliances.

Voting to the 70-member assembly will take place on Feb. 8, Sunil Arora, chief election commissioner, said in New Delhi on Monday. Counting of votes will be held on Feb. 11.

The battle to decide who will rule the National Capital Territory will be mainly between Arvind Kejriwal’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party, Sonia Gandhi’s Congress party and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The election is taking place at a time when Modi is facing slowing economic growth, an unemployment rate that’s surged to a more than four-decade high and mass protests against his Hindu nationalist agenda, particularly on the government’s religion-based citizenship law.

Seven months after winning a landslide victory in federal elections, Modi has been facing tougher-than-expected battles to retain power across India’s states. The BJP lost control of the country’s richest state Maharashtra following a wrangle with its erstwhile ally Shiv Sena. It failed to retain the eastern state of Jharkhand, where the BJP and its allies fought against each other. In the northern state of Haryana, while the BJP’s performance was weaker than expected, it retained power with the support of a new ally.

Delhi is roughly the size of Hong Kong, with more than twice as many people. Despite a plethora of tree-lined boulevards and parks filled with centuries-old monuments, gridlocked streets and unchecked industrial pollution contribute to the city’s claim to the world’s most toxic air.

While on paper Delhi has little say in national affairs -- accounting for about 1% of all parliamentary seats -- its position at the heart of Indian power gives it outsized importance.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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