Opinion polls show Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces a close election battle in the country’s third-most populous state, Bihar, where defeat would dent his chances of consolidating power and speeding up economic recovery.
Victory in Bihar’s state election would help Modi build his party’s strength in the Rajya Sabha, where its lack of a majority has allowed the opposition to block economic reforms he sees as vital for jobs and growth.
A survey by pollsters Cicero released late on Thursday showed Modi’s Bharatiya Jananta Party (BJP) winning a narrow majority in the elections in one of the country’s poorest states. The vote will be in five phases from Oct. 12 to Nov. 5.
The BJP’s lead was within the poll’s margin of error, making the forecast a technical tie. A separate poll by C-Voter this week said the BJP faced defeat.
“This election is going to be very close and if Modi loses, then national politics will take another turn,” Satish Misra, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation.
“Modi would be considerably weakened, both within the party and among the public. His credibility has been eroding fast over the last few months.”
Members of the Rajya Sabha are selected according to parties’ strength in state assemblies.
The Bihar election is a contest between a BJP-led alliance and a coalition of regional parties which campaign for the empowerment of lower caste Hindus and minority Muslims.
Bihar’s big rural population will provide a crucial test of support for Modi in the countryside, where most Indians live. He has been criticised for not helping distressed farmers or ensuring stable crop prices.
The Cicero poll showed the BJP would win 125 out of 243 seats in Bihar’s assembly and the coalition of other parties would win 106 seats.
Any coalition needs 122 seats for a majority. Calculating seats is difficult in India’s first-past-the-post electoral system.
Cicero said the BJP alliance would win 42 percent of votes, compared with 40 percent for its opponents. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
The C-Voter survey showed the BJP winning a maximum of 110 seats while its rivals would win as many as 132 seats. C-Voter said the BJP would win 40 percent of votes and its main rivals would win 43 percent.