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Poll win in 3 states a boost for Indian PM

By APARAJIT CHAKRABORTY in New Delhi | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-05 09:19

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to media upon his arrival at the parliament in New Delhi on Monday. His ruling party has won in three of four state elections. MANISH SWARUP/AP

Victory reflects BJP's popularity ahead of general election next year, experts say

India's ruling Hindu nationalist party won three out of four key state elections on Sunday, a result seen by analysts as a significant boost for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and an indication of the party's continued popularity, ahead of the national election scheduled for 2024.

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, wrested control of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan states from Indian National Congress and was reelected in Madhya Pradesh for a record fifth term, according to the election commission's website.

The Congress party comfortably won in Telangana state, which was ruled by the strong Telangana Rashtra Samithi, known for opposing the BJP.

The four states are home to more than 160 million voters and account for 82 seats in the 543-member Indian parliament.

Vote counting in a fifth state, Mizoram, is set for Monday where BJP's regional ally, the Mizo National Front, is in power.

Analysts see the BJP's victory in the three key states as a solid boost for the party and a measure of its sustained popularity ahead of the country's 2024 national election sometime before the end of May.

As the results came in, celebrations broke out at BJP offices across the country on Sunday. Outside the party headquarters in New Delhi, a large crowd started to assemble since early morning and remained there throughout the day and the mood was jubilant. Young men broke into cheers and chants as big television screens showed the BJP leading in three important states.

BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda said: "We always said we will win the heartland states. The results are the outcome of our fine political strategy and work."

Modi told jubilant BJP members at the party headquarters the results suggested a third term next year was guaranteed.

"The results ... indicate that the people of India are firmly with politics of good governance and development, which the BJP stands for," Modi posted on X.

As the BJP won in three important states, expectations are rising that Modi will secure a third term as prime minister when India holds its general election.

"I am so happy that the BJP is winning," said Anil Mishra, a 21-year-old party worker wearing a crisp floral jacket and a scarf of saffron, the party's color, wrapped around his knuckles at the party headquarters in New Delhi.

"They will give a push to Hindutva," he remarked, referring to the party's plan of reshaping India along explicitly Hindu lines.

Some experts had predicted that the Congress, which ruled most of the Indian states since the country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, would do better this time in local elections.

United fight

In a bid to challenge Modi in the 2024 general election, 28 political parties have united to form the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA. The grouping is led by the Congress party.

Modi remains widely popular after a decade in power. Surveys suggest he will win again next year.

The opposition alliance did not feature in the state elections, which were mainly a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress.

Overriding anti-incumbency, the victory by Modi's BJP in the three states is hugely significant as it comes months ahead of the general election, experts said.

Multiple factors, including continued popularity of Modi, welfare schemes initiated by the federal government, hard work of the grassroots BJP leaders, and leadership crisis and lack of confidence among the opposition Congress supporters, are behind the BJP's resounding victory in the three major Hindi heartland states, said Sangit Kumar Ragi, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Delhi.

The victory is seen as a gauge of Modi's popularity before the general election, Ragi noted.

But as the country is now facing several challenges, including increased unemployment, high inflation and elevated poverty levels, the BJP suffered a setback earlier this year when it lost the big southern state of Karnataka to Congress.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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