the southwest monsoon, the lifeline for millions of farmers across india, is expected to be normal in 2018, the india meteorological department (imd) said on tuesday. releasing its first forecast for 2018, the met department said that rains would be 97 per cent of the long period average (lpa), with a model error of plus or minus 5 per cent. probability of normal to excess rains is 56% and that of below normal and deficit rain is 44%. a normal monsoon will not only aid agriculture growth but could have a positive impact on the overall rural economy crucial for the ruling bjp government as it faces critical state elections followed by the big national polls in 2019. the negative fallout of a good monsoon followed by a good harvest is that unless it is supported by strong offtake measures it could lead to a glut in many crops plummeting farm incomes. however, the arrival of the monsoon and its distribution would play an important part so far as the economy was concerned, experts said. the imd predicted 97 per cent chance of near-normal showers. the imd, which released its initial forecast for the four-month monsoon season, also said preliminary indications showed this year's rains would evenly distributed. detailed forecasts on regional distribution will be made in early june, by when more information on el niño and the iod is available. el niño is a warming of sea surface temperature along the equatorial pacific ocean, while in the iod sea surfac...