Indian PM Modi's party heading for big win in his home state

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party looks set to retain control in his home state of Gujarat following a record state legislature win, but it is trailing behind its rival Congress party in northern Himachal Pradesh state

ByASHOK SHARMA Associated Press
December 8, 2022, 4:41 AM
Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) supporters celebrate early leads for the party as vote counting of Gujarat state elections is underway in Gandhinagar, India, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. The local elections in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state is see
Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) supporters celebrate early leads for the party as vote counting of Gujarat state elections is underway in Gandhinagar, India, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. The local elections in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state is seen as a barometer of his ruling Bharatiya Janata party’s popularity ahead of a general election in 2024. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
The Associated Press

NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party on Thursday looked set to retain control in his home state of Gujarat following a record state legislature win, but it was trailing behind its rival Congress party in northern Himachal Pradesh state.

The landslide win in Modi’s home state is expected to provide a big boost to the party ahead of national elections due in 2024. The BJP has not lost state assembly elections in the western industrial state since 1995. Modi was Gujarat’s top elected official for 13 years before becoming prime minister in 2014.

Modi’s party remains popular despite criticism of rising inflation, unemployment and religious polarization.

According to India's autonomous Election Commission, the BJP was leading in 158 out of 182 seats in the Gujarat state legislature and the Congress party was ahead in 16 seats. The Congress party was leading in 40 of 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh state legislature, against BJP's 25 seats. Results are expected later Thursday.

The BJP workers began celebrating the party's showing in Gujarat state with the state's top elected official, Bhupendra Patel, describing the likely win as "people reposing full faith in Prime Minister Modi's leadership."

However, the BJP lost a key election to run the New Delhi municipality to the regional Aam Admi Party on Wednesday after controlling it for 15 straight years.

"Gujarat has come as a big shock,” said Pawan Khera, a Congress party spokesman. His party’s most prominent leaders — Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi — did not actively campaign in the state elections after the party elected a non-family member, Mallikarjun Kharge, as party president in October.

Rahul Gandhi is on a 3,500-kilometer (2,185-mile) walking tour of Indian cities, towns and villages as he attempts to rejuvenate the party and win the people’s support ahead of the next national elections.

A win in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state elections would embolden Modi and his party to pursue a pro-Hindu agenda with greater vigor ahead of the 2024 elections.

Yogendra Yadav, a political analyst, said the opposition’s good results in Himachal Pradesh and New Delhi states show that "the BJP is vulnerable and you actually can defeat it provided the opposition is there, has a message, has a messenger and a machine.”

Arvind Kejriwal, chief of the Aam Admi Party, was hoping for a better election outcome for his party in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, especially after it wrested power from the Congress party in a Punjab state assembly election in March this year.

The 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in Modi’s Gujarat state, while he was the top elected official, polarized the state’s estimated 64 million people, comprised of 88% Hindus and 11% Muslims. Modi's critics accused him of looking the other way while the bloodshed left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims. Modi has denied the accusations, and the Supreme Court has said it found no evidence to prosecute him.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which grew out of a nationwide anti-corruption movement in 2012, has been a formidable political force in the Indian capital and has been trying to strengthen its presence across the country.

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