NEW DELHI: India’s ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was leading in three of four states in key regional polls on Sunday, indicating a big boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of general elections in six months.
The heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and the southern state of Telangana, voted last month in the last set of provincial elections before the national vote due by May, when Modi seeks a third term.
BJP was leading in all three heartland states, trends from the counting of votes showed on TV channels.
“We always said we will win the heartland states,” BJP president Jagat Prakash Nadda told Reuters. “The results are the outcome of our finest political strategy and work on the ground.” Modi remains widely popular after a decade in power and surveys suggest he will win again next year. However, a 28-party opposition alliance led by the Congress party has come together to jointly fight BJP, posing a new challenge.
BJP also suffered a setback when it lost the big southern state of Karnataka to Congress, earlier this year.
The opposition alliance, called the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance or INDIA, did not feature in the state polls and it was a direct contest between BJP and Congress.
The four states are home to more than 160 million voters and account for 82 seats in the 543-member parliament.
Modi and leaders of Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, criss-crossed the states, addressing campaign rallies and promising cash payouts, farm loan waivers, subsidies and insurance cover, among other incentives, to woo voters.
Politicians and analysts say state elections do not always influence the outcome of the general elections or accurately indicate national voter mood.
Results of the last round of state elections before national elections have been misleading in the past.
The small northeastern state of Mizoram also voted last month and votes there are due to be counted on Monday.
Congress leads in Telangana
Celebrations broke out in the Congress camp in Telangana on Sunday as counting trends showed that the party was heading for a victory in India’s youngest state.
Big celebrations were seen at the residence of Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president A. Revanth Reddy’s residence and party headquarters in Gandhi Bhavan.
The Congress supporters were dancing amid drumbeats outside the residence of Revanth Reddy, a front-runner for the post of chief minister.
Waving Congress flags, the party workers were raising slogans hailing the TPCC chief.
As the counting trends showed that Congress will get a clear majority in the 119-member Assembly, a large number of supporters of Revanth Reddy gathered outside his house.
Police also stepped up security at the TPCC president’s house. Revanth Reddy along with a few close aides was monitoring the counting trends from his residence. He is likely to leave for Gandhi Bhavan or to the hotel where Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar and other AICC observers were camping.