December 7, 2008 / 9:50 PM / 11 years ago

State vote results will give taste of India's mood

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The results of a month-long series of state elections, due on Monday, should reveal the political mood of an India reeling from the Mumbai attacks and hit by economic slowdown.

The elections, mostly in central and west India, come before a national vote in early 2009 that will pit the ruling Congress-led coalition against the main opposition alliance led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Results are due from four states. The results for troubled Kashmir state will be released near the end of December.

Voters may also pass judgement on a government criticised for rising prices and for failing to prevent the Mumbai attacks and other bombings by suspected Islamists.

Criticism over the economy and security has helped the BJP win a string of state elections in the last year.

Even before the blood had been mopped up from the three-day rampage in India’s financial capital, in which Islamist gunmen killed 171 people, the BJP took out front-page advertisements slamming Congress as unable to defend the nation.

Economists now expect the economy to grow at 7 percent this year, compared with 9 percent or more in recent years.

On Sunday, the government said it planned $4 billion of extra spending to try to revive economic growth.

India’s economy is reeling, with car factories on three-day weeks, soy farmers hit by drops in commodity prices and revenue outlooks by software exporters cut.

The four elections — in the western state of Rajasthan, the central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and in the capital, Delhi — will be a straight battle between Congress and BJP.

Kashmir, facing its biggest protests against Indian rule in years, is in the middle of a month-long vote that will test India’s claim on the disputed region, but results are not due until later in the month.

Whoever does best in the state elections may find it easier to secure alliances with regional parties before the national election, crucial to building a post-election coalition.

Writing by Bryson Hull; editing by Alistair Scrutton and Andrew Roche

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