Home State votes India’s Modi faces key test

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By 2017-12-08

India's Narendra Modi will face a key test of his popularity after a series of controversial economic reforms when the state where he forged his political career goes to the polls on Saturday.
Modi built his reputation as an economic reformer in his prosperous home state of Gujarat, which boomed under his rule, attracting investment from around the globe.

But turning around the national economy has proved more difficult and the Modi government reforms have hurt the very constituency of traders and small business owners who were his biggest supporters in the western State.
Analysts say voter anger over the reforms and a desire for change after 22 years of rule by Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could boost the flagging fortunes of the opposition Congress Party.

That the Congress campaign has been fronted by Rahul Gandhi – the man likely to challenge Modi for the premiership in the next general election in 2019 – has only added to the pressure on the prime minister.
The election is seen as a chance for Gandhi to finally prove his mettle before he is named president of the Party his mother Sonia has led for more than two decades.

"The Gujarat election's national and psychological impact makes it all-important," said Indian political commentator R. Jagannathan.
"This state saw Modi's rise, and if he gets humbled here, then even his allies will doubt if he can still win in 2019. An upset here will be unlike any other state."

Modi's personal popularity remains high, with 88 per cent of Indians surveyed by the Pew Research Centre earlier this year saying they viewed him positively.

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