Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to keep control of India’s most populous state with a big majority, according to the count of state assembly votes that could offer clues to the national mood before general election in 2024.
The BJP coalition was leading in about 250 of the 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh, Indian news channels reported on Thursday citing counting data, while the Election Commission said the party was ahead in enough seats to hold onto power.
“Everyone will he surprised by the mandate because we are going to win with a thumping majority,” said Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesman Rakesh Tripathi.
Uttar Pradesh is home to about a fifth of India’s 1.35 billion people and sends the most legislators to parliament of any state.
The key northern state is governed by Yogi Adityanath, a highly divisive Hindu monk-turned-politician whose rise has been marked by anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence.
In elections in four smaller states over the past month, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that governs the national capital territory of Delhi is headed for a landslide victory in Punjab, while the races are tight but in favour of the BJP in Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand.
It has long been said that without winning Uttar Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Bihar, no party or coalition has much hope of securing a majority in parliament. The BJP has been in power in both.
For decades, Uttar Pradesh was a stronghold of the main opposition Congress party, but it has been unable to stem a slide in its popularity over recent years.
If Modi’s party holds Uttar Pradesh as expected, opposition hopes of a united front to challenge him in the next general election will be dented.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES