Gujarat: Counting of votes starts in India PM's home state


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) holds up his inked finger after casting his vote in Ahmedabad on December 14, 2017.Image copyright
AFP

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Mr Modi’s party campaigned on economic development and Hindu nationalism to woo voters

Counting of votes has begun in crucial elections in India’s Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

Gujarat is a stronghold state for Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has governed there for 22 years.

A number of exit polls have suggested that the BJP is on course to win the election this time as well.

But exit polls have been wrong in the past, and the rival Congress party was seen to have put up a spirited fight.

Votes are also being counted in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.

Caste protests

Led by a resurgent Rahul Gandhi, the newly elected leader of the 132-year-old Congress, the party had stitched up an alliance with three newer, electorally untested leaders in Gujarat.

Among them Hardik Patel, a 24-year-old man who is too young to even contest elections, became what looked like the face of opposition to Mr Modi’s party.

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Media captionHardik Patel enjoys massive support among his Patidar community

Mr Patel, a firebrand campaigner, is leading massive caste protests which have rocked Gujarat and sparked a movement demanding that the Patels – or the Patidar caste – be given better access to jobs and education through the quota system.

Some 14% of people in Gujarat are Patels, an influential farming community which has traditionally voted for the BJP.

But declining farm incomes are pushing community members into cities, where the lack of jobs has made competition for them intense. Anxious about their future, they have taken to the streets to demand affirmative action, even though there is little scope to extend quotas.

Mr Modi’s party campaigned on economic development and Hindu nationalism to woo voters.

The prime minister himself held more than three dozen meetings in the state.

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Media captionThe bikers found one district where many girls drop out of school aged 10

He sparked controversy by alleging that the Congress party was helping Pakistan to influence the state polls.

In 2012, the BJP won 116 seats in the 182-seat assembly.

Polling in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh was held between 9 and 14 December.

More than 68% of Gujarat’s 43 million eligible voters cast their ballots, while Himachal Pradesh saw a voter turnout of about 74%.



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