New Delhi, Dec 1 (EFE).- India’s western Gujarat state, a stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP Hindu-nationalist party, began voting on Thursday in a crucial local election to elect the 182 members of the state’s legislative assembly.
Some 49 million voters are called to vote in two phases with the second day of voting scheduled to be held on Dec. 5. A total of 89 seats are up for grabs in the first phase.
The results will be announced on Dec. 8 after the counting of ballots cast in 51,782 polling stations, according to the data released by the Election Commission of India.
The BJP has been ruling India since 2014 after securing absolute majorities in the parliamentary elections that year and in 2019.
The elections in Gujarat – Modi’s home state – are a crucial test for the prime minister, who enjoys high levels of popularity in the country but is also accused of stirring up religious tensions in the country, especially with the Muslim minority.
“Today is the first phase of the Gujarat elections. I call upon all those voting today, particularly first time voters to exercise their franchise in record numbers,” tweeted Modi, who is scheduled to participate on Thursday in a large election rally in a district that will vote in the second phase.
Gujarat has been ruled by the BJP since 1995 with Modi serving as the chief minister between 2001 and 2014, but in these elections many are pointing to the challenge posed by the popular Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is attracting a growing number of voters with a focus on education and health.
The party, which was formed at the end of 2012 by Arvind Kejriwal, a former bureaucrat and activist, rules the Indian capital of New Delhi after two landslide wins since 2015.
This year, the party also achieved a majority in the northern Punjab state, beating the incumbent Congress party.
“You have a golden opportunity, go and vote for a better future for Gujarat and your children, this time do something big,” Kejriwal said on Twitter. EFE