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EC to announce dates for Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat assembly elections at 4pm today

While the Congress is in power in the hill state of Himachal, the BJP has been ruling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat for around 22 years now.

india Updated: Oct 12, 2017 13:51 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Gujarat,Himachal Pradesh,Assembly elections
The ruling BJP in Gujarat is facing anti-incumbency and anger of the powerful Patidar community demanding quota in education and government jobs.(HT File Photo)

The election commission is set to announce the dates for assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh on Thursday, officials said.

The polls are seen as a barometer of support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a time when a sputtering economy has handed the opposition Congress party a possible opening to regain political ground.

In particular, the contest in Gujarat, Modi’s home state where the BJP has been in power for 22 years, will be keenly watched for signs of voter reaction to some of his radical economic policies that made doing business far more complicated, especially for small and medium companies.

The BJP has also been facing angry protests by the powerful Patidar community in Gujarat that has been demanding a quota in education and government jobs. Last week, a new potential embarrassment emerged over the business dealings of Jay Amitbhai Shah, son of BJP chief Amit Shah.

None of this necessarily upsets the BJP’s expected victory in its citadel of Gujarat. The party has been extending its reach across the country, emboldened by a string of state election victories and high public approval for Modi.

But with the economy still reeling from the cash clampdown and bumpy implementation of the goods and services tax, the party appears to have lost, for the first time since its resounding national victory in 2014, some of its bombast and confidence.

For now, both national parties have already launched their informal campaigns in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where the ruling Congress has alternated in power with the BJP for decades.

Although a small state, the polls in Himachal Pradesh will be watched for the emergence of the next generation of leaders in both parties that publicly say are against dynastic politics.

Its chief minister Virbhadra Singh will lead the Congress into the election for the 68-member assembly. The BJP is unlikely to name a chief ministerial nominee.

Also, talk has gathered pace about Rahul Gandhi taking over as the president of the Congress after Diwali. Should that happen the two states will be his first formal leadership test.

First Published: Oct 12, 2017 11:26 IST