Millions vote in Punjab elections that could reshape PM Narendra Modi's future

Winning over farmers could be key in the battleground Indian state of Punjab

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Millions of people voted in the state election in India’s northern Punjab on Sunday in the aftermath of year-long street protests by farmers.

The Sikh majority state – known as the breadbasket of India – was one of three states that voted in regional elections.

Unemployment, development, illegal sand mining and an drug abuse were the key electoral issues in Punjab, but there was also anger among voters, mainly Sikh farmers, over the contentious farm laws brought in by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Tens of thousands of farmers had camped outside the capital Delhi from late 2020 to protest against three laws created to privatise India’s agriculture sector. They were repealed in November.

The state with a population of 30 million heard from several political contenders in the contest, with Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance vying for 117 assembly seats out of 543.

Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in alliance with regional parties, fielded 68 candidates, its highest number yet.

The polling was largely peaceful and more than 63 per cent of 21 million registered voters had cast their ballot by Sunday evening.

In one incident, Sikh youths brawled with police after they were stopped from votes while carrying Kirpan daggers.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 5:36 AM