- Voters queued up Saturday in the states of Punjab and Goa, in India's north and west, as polls opened for the first in a series of five state-level elections set to take place over the next weeks. dpa reported.
Some 160 million voters are eligible to cast ballots across the five states, in what's seen as the first big electoral test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party since his controversial move last year to scrap high-denomination currency notes.
Elections also will be held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur between February 11 and March 8, with vote-counting for all contests scheduled for March 11, the Election Commission said.
The five states are home to a fifth of the country's 1.25 billion people.
Modi's currency move was meant to curb tax evasion. But opposition parties have attacked the BJP, accusing it of pushing the poor into deeper distress with a cash crisis and the economic slowdown that followed.
The BJP is in power in Goa and an ally of the ruling Akali Dal party in Punjab. The opposition rival Indian National Congress party hopes to claw back power in both states.
The focus, however, is on Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, where elections begin next Saturday. The BJP is keen to win the politically significant state, where it is in opposition to the regional Samajwadi Party.
The BJP also hopes to wrest power in the hill-state of Uttarakhand and the north-eastern state of Manipur, governed by the Congress party.
Indian states go to the polls once every five years. Voting in Punjab and Goa is set to conclude Saturday evening.