Tamil Nadu polls a test for Congress

Tamil Nadu went to polls on Wednesday in an election that is seen as testing the extent of public anger against the ruling Congress party battling a string of corruption scandals and high food prices.

Tamil Nadu, a swing state that helps give Congress a Parliamentary majority, is ruled by the regional DMK party, a ruling coalition ally linked to a multi-billion dollar telecoms graft scandal that has roiled Asia's third-largest economy.

Elections in Tamil Nadu are one of the most important of polls in five states this summer which are seen redrawing the political map of India ahead of the 2014 general elections.

Results for these state elections will be known on May 13.

A defeat for the DMK will not affect the stability of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government as no party wants a snap vote before the scheduled 2014 general election.

But a loss for an important Congress ally would bolster Opposition parties and impede government attempts to pass politically-sensitive economic reforms, like streamlining taxes or opening up retail to foreign investors.

Analysts give the Opposition AIADMK an edge in the elections, given the scandals and helped by its alliance with a party of a popular Tamil Nadu film actor.

The defeat of state and regional parties that currently support the UPA (ruling) coalition could lead those parties to re-think how they are positioned electorally, analysts at political risk group 'Eurasia' wrote in a note to clients.

If parties decided to abandon ship, 'Eurasia' said it would scramble the coalition and, amid a frenzy of politicking and deal making, further sink Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's reform agenda in Parliament.

Congress is looking for a good performance to reassert its political weight over its fickle allies and the main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. Congress has 207 seats and depends on regional allies to reach the 272 halfway mark in parliament.

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