Modi’s ruling party leads in crucial India polls: NPR


Election officials count the votes after the Uttar Pradesh state elections in Lucknow, India on Thursday.

Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP


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Modi's ruling party leads in crucial India polls: NPR

Election officials count the votes after the Uttar Pradesh state elections in Lucknow, India on Thursday.

Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party had a commanding lead in India’s most populous state as votes were counted on Thursday, despite his government’s criticized handling of COVID-19, the rise in unemployment boom and farmer protests.

Trends in polling data shared by India’s Election Commission showed the Bharatiya Janata Party comfortably leading in the state of Uttar Pradesh in polls seen as a crucial test for Modi’s popularity ahead of the national elections in 2024. Modi’s BJP also led in three other states, while India’s main opposition party, Congress, faced a rout in Punjab, the data showed.

The final tally for five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa – where voters have been going to the polls for a month to vote was expected Thursday night at the earliest.

Thursday’s results, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, are seen as a referendum on Modi’s popularity and a resounding endorsement of his party’s Hindu-first policies. They will also undermine the hopes of Indian opposition parties who plan to form a united front to challenge Modi in the next general election.

The key northern state of Uttar Pradesh is ruled by Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk turned highly controversial politician whose rise has been marked by anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence. He is expected to return as the state’s chief minister, as polling data suggested Modi’s party was leading in around 255 of 403 seats – well beyond a simple majority to form a government.

In the last elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, the BJP and its allies swept the polls. The results were then widely credited to Modi’s popularity and Hindu-first politics, and he returned as prime minister for a second consecutive term in the 2019 general election.

Bellwether Uttar Pradesh sends 80 lawmakers to India’s parliament, the most of any state. Polls there have long been seen as a crucial vote ahead of national elections.

Modi's ruling party leads in crucial India polls: NPR

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers celebrate the party’s early runs as election officials count the votes after the Uttar Pradesh state elections in Lucknow, India on Thursday.

Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP


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Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

Modi's ruling party leads in crucial India polls: NPR

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers celebrate the party’s early runs as election officials count the votes after the Uttar Pradesh state elections in Lucknow, India on Thursday.

Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

Modi’s party has come under immense pressure to lead a collapsing economy even before the COVID-19 pandemic, with unemployment a key issue among voters. The elections were also the first after a calamitous spike in infections sparked anger, with many accusing the Adityanath government of mismanagement.

Ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh, the party has promised to boost development and wooed voters with social measures. Its main message, however, was banking on expensive projects that combine religion and infrastructure – analysts of the projects say were aimed at pleasing the BJP’s Hindu base. But uncertainty over the outcome of the vote had been raised by multiple defections to the state’s main opposition, the Samajwadi party, whose secular appeal drew voters from a wide range of castes as well as the Muslim community.

Ahead of the election, questions were also raised over whether the Farmers, an influential voting bloc, would side with the BJP. Many farmers were still furious with Modi for pushing through farm laws that sparked a year-long protest before he bowed to pressure and revoked them in November.

This anger has also set the tone for polls in the neighboring state of Punjab, considered India’s “breadbasket”, and where the Aam Aadmi party, which was formed in 2013 to stamp out corruption and has since ruled the National Territory of Delhi for two consecutive terms. , was fighting to oust the opposition party from Congress.

Polling trends in Punjab showed a resounding victory for the Aam Aadmi party. He was leading in about 88 of the 117 seats.

Leaders of the Aam Aadmi party have said they are now ready to take on Modi domestically.

“I see the AAP becoming a national force. The AAP is going to be the national and natural replacement for Congress,” party spokesman Raghav Chadha told New Delhi Television news channel.

Once a party with a national footprint, Congress is in turmoil after the 2019 national election debacle, and some of its key young leaders have moved to the BJP. With its defeat in Punjab, the party will struggle to revive its fortunes as regional parties like the Aam Aadmi party take the space to challenge the dominance of the BJP.

Modi’s party is also expected to hold power for a second consecutive term in Uttarakhand state, according to Election Commission data.

In elections in two small states of Manipur and Goa, Modi’s party was in a tight race but ahead of other parties.


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