South Asia | India's Modi strengthens grip on power in assembly elections
A supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrates after learning of the initial poll results outside the party headquarters in Kolkata, India, March 11, 2017. Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

The Modi Mood

BJP gains big in Hindi heartland assembly elections, strengthening the power base of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

NEW DELHI, March 11, 2017 8:53 PM (UTC+8)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party on Saturday was set for sweeping wins in assembly elections in two major Indian states, bolstering his power base for national elections in 2019.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held unassailable leads in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which together represent 21% of lawmakers in Parliament. The BJP led in 322 of the 403 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and 57 of the 70 constituencies in neighboring Uttarakhand.

“Huge support from youth is gladdening. I salute BJP workers for their hard work,” Modi said.

The Uttar Pradesh victory is especially encouraging for the BJP as for the last 15 years it’s put in a weak showing in the state, which is home to over 210 million people.

In three other states holding elections, the BJP was neck and neck with rival Congress party in Manipur and Goa. Congress was ahead in 77 of 117 constituencies in Punjab.

Addressing a media conference, BJP president Amit Shah said the party will form governments in Goa and Manipur, too, by cobbling together a coalition with winning non-Congress candidates. The BJP showing is the vote for politics of performance and proves the people of India are with Prime Minister Modi, he said.

Federal minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described the BJP support in Uttar Pradesh as a “tsunami,” in an interview with CNN News-18. “In Modi, they found a leader who could deliver good governance, fight corruption and terrorism,” he said.

Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar blamed the poor performance in Uttar Pradesh on the BJP’s politics of polarization. Another Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said Modi took a wrong idea, but was able to market it effectively.

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