Farm Angst, Unemployment Threaten Modi’s Win in Land of Gandhi’s Satyagraha

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Hi, this is Rajesh Kumar Singh. I write about energy and climate from New Delhi. I spent my childhood in Champaran in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, the birthplace of English novelist George Orwell and the cradle of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent resistance, or Satyagraha, against British colonial rule. A century after a popular uprising by indigo farmers against the British, that catalyzed India’s freedom movement, the district near the border with Nepal still reels from agricultural distress. Devastating floods in the fertile plains ruin crops every year and the recurring losses, coupled with the lack of any major industrial enterprise, force thousands of young people to migrate to bigger cities in search of jobs.

The bumpy horse-cart rides I took as a child are now distant memories with SUVs zooming on swanky highways. Villages today get round-the-clock electricity. Social media has helped put Champaran’s staple mutton curry on India’s culinary map. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won the two parliament constituencies here — East Champaran and West Champaran — in the last three elections. However, angry farmers, rising unemployment and a united opposition threaten to rock his boat this time.

Top Stories

Indian authorities have so far seized about $1.1 billion worth of illicit money, drugs and other goods in their crackdown on illegal vote inducements. The vast amounts of money being spent during these elections is particularly contentious, with political parties accusing each other of illegal spending.

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Campaign Trail

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal has said he is not interested in becoming the prime minister if the opposition alliance wins the 2024 national elections.

Global Media

Reuters reported about India’s election panel ordering Modi’s BJP and opposition Congress to exercise restraint in their campaigns.

Nikkei reported that Modi is facing accusations of failing on a 10-year-old promise to clean up the Ganges river.

Who Votes This Week?

India’s mammoth election runs through June 1, with counting scheduled for June 4. This map from the Election Commission of India shows which constituencies vote when.

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This story was produced with the assistance of Bloomberg Automation.

--With assistance from Supriya Batra and Eshani Mathur.

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