image

Narendra Modi

Modi declares victory for ruling party in India’s state elections

The BJP has held Gujarat for about two decades with Modi at the helm for more than 12 years and he used his stewardship of the state as a launch pad for his national campaign in 2014.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 11:03pm

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory on Monday in two state elections, including a closely-fought race in his stronghold of Gujarat, where the charismatic leader fronted the campaign.

Modi thanked voters in the state, his home in India’s west, and the northern Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, for backing the ruling Hindu national party in the local polls.

“I bow to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh for their affection and trust in BJP,” Modi posted on his official Twitter account, using the initials of his Bharatiya Janata Party.

“I assure them that we will leave no stone unturned in furthering the development journey of these states and serve the people tirelessly,” he tweeted.

BJP chief Amit Shah also called victory for the ruling party, saying Modi’s development agenda had prevailed over “family politics”, a reference to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that leads the main opposition Congress party.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who at the weekend replaced his mother Sonia at the helm of the main opposition party, conceded defeat in Gujarat and congratulated the BJP on its win.

The ruling party was also poised to wrest control of Himachal Pradesh from Congress, extending BJP control to 19 of India’s 29 states and further bolstering Modi before a general election in 2019.

Congress, which has ruled India for much of its history but was thumped by Modi’s BJP in the 2014 national poll, now holds just four states.

As counting continued the election commission said the BJP was on track to win 99 seats in the 182-seat Gujarat parliament as of early evening.

That result would return the BJP to power for a sixth consecutive term in the state but would slash the number of seats from 115 in the last election.

Some experts had forecast a backlash against Modi over unpopular economic reforms that hit businesses hard, including a controversial ban on higher-value banknotes and the introduction of a national goods and services tax.

“The (BJP) have certainly lost a lot of ground, but Congress should have actually won this election, given the anger in the state against the BJP,” political commentator Manisha Priyam said.

The election in Gujarat was bitterly fought, with campaigning marked by some of the sharpest verbal duels seen in recent Indian elections.

Modi implied at one point, without presenting any evidence, that the Congress party may have been conniving with Pakistan to affect the voting. The allegation was angrily denied by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, a Congress party leader.

Modi’s star power was undiminished at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, where supporters danced, threw rose petals and chanted “Long live Modi!” as the results trickled in.

“This was expected … It is a tremendous victory and Modi has come out as the single most popular leader,” party supporter Sandeep Kapoor told AFP.

India’s Sensex plunged in opening trade Monday but recovered throughout the day as results turned in favour of the BJP.

Additional reporting by Associated Press