Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has won an overwhelming victory in a state assembly vote in his home state of Gujarat, putting it in a strong position ahead of the 2024 general elections. The BJP, however, lost to the main opposition Congress Party in the small northern state of Himachal Pradesh. Political analysts said the party’s massive win in Gujarat where it is returning to power for a record seventh term, has reaffirmed Modi’s runaway popularity. Gujarat, which Modi had ruled for nearly 13 years before becoming prime minister in 2014, is one of India’s most economically progressive states. The BJP won 156 of the 182 state assembly seats, the largest victory secured by any party in the western state. “People blessed politics of development and at the same time expressed a desire that they want this momentum to continue at a greater pace,” Modi tweeted. The party’s supporters danced and beat drums as the vote count showed its record-breaking win. While BJP leaders attributed the Gujarat victory to the party’s governance, political analysts said that Modi’s wide appeal in his home state, where he campaigned extensively, and the party’s pro-Hindu ideology, have propelled it to a favorable position. “Hindutva ideology is very strongly rooted in Gujarat’s consciousness,” says Amit Dholakia, professor of political science at Maharaja Sayajirao University in the city of Vadodara. “And now with the record number of seats that the BJP holds in the state assembly, it will be in a position to implement the policies it wants with greater vigor.” A split in opposition votes also helped the BJP, whose main challenger has traditionally been the Congress Party; but a regional party entered the electoral fray for the first time in Gujarat in a bid to establish a footprint outside Delhi and Punjab state, which it rules. Although the Aam Aadmi party is set to win only a handful of seats, political analysts said its spirited campaign has helped it establish its presence in the state. The party emerged from an anti-corruption movement about a decade ago and has ambitions to displace the Congress Party as the principal challenger to the BJP by building its base among lower socioeconomic groups. It may have succeeded in doing so in Gujarat. “I see this election as the beginning of the end of the Congress in Gujarat. In five years, the Aam Aadmi party will be the main opposition party and Congress will go out of the race like it did in many other states in India,” says Dholakia. The results in Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress Party is set to wrest power from the BJP, brought a flicker of hope to India’s once-dominant party, whose electoral fortunes have tumbled in recent years. “Their performance in Himachal shows that the Congress can live to fight another day if they have a strong organization. It also shows that the Modi magic does not work everywhere,” according to independent political analyst Rasheed Kidwai. “After all, he campaigned here also but failed to make the same impact as in his home state, where challenging him was a herculean task.” The BJP also lost a key election to run the New Delhi municipality, which it had controlled for 15 years, to the regional Aam Aadmi party on Wednesday. While Modi’s wide appeal has helped the party shrug aside opposition criticism on issues such as inflation, unemployment and religious polarization, political analysts said the setbacks in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh showed that it is vulnerable. The BJP has ruled since 2014 after defeating the Congress Party and steadily expanded its presence across the country. The BJP now rules 17 of India’s 28 states.
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