NEW DELHI/ GUJARAT: India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is heading for a record-breaking landslide victory in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat for a seventh straight term.
The final results are expected later on Thursday. In the last state legislature elections held in 2017, the BJP won 99 seats.
Experts say the stunning victory in the western state would bolster the BJP’s popularity ahead of general elections scheduled for the summer of 2024, in which Modi is eyeing a third term as prime minister.
Trends in the two-phase state polls showed the opposition Congress party, which won 77 seats in 2017, is leading in just 17 constituencies of Gujarat.
New entrant the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which runs the government in the national capital of Delhi and in Punjab after wins there earlier this year, is leading in only five seats.
In crucial civic poll results which were declared on Wednesday, the BJP lost control of the municipal corporation in Delhi to the AAP.
“Thank you Gujarat. I am overcome with a lot of emotions seeing the phenomenal election results,” Modi tweeted on Thursday. “People blessed politics of development and at the same time expressed a desire that they want this momentum to continue at a greater pace.”
Ajay Gudavarthy, who teaches political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told media the BJP’s comfortable win in Gujarat shows a deeper consolidation of the Hindu vote.
The state saw one of the worst religious violence in independent India’s history in 2002, months after Modi took over as its chief minister.
Rights groups say nearly 2,000 people most of them Muslims were killed and dozens of women raped that year following the burning of a passenger train carrying a large number of Hindu pilgrims.
Gudavarthy said “there is now a brazen articulation of Hindu votes for the BJP” across the country.
‘Safety our only concern’
Muslims, who comprise nearly 10 percent of Gujarat’s 60 million population, face growing hatred and institutionalized discrimination in what is considered India’s most communally polarized state.
Kaleem Siddiqui, a minority rights activist in Gujarat’s main city of Ahmedabad, told media the BJP ran an extensive anti-Muslim campaign to garner votes in the state polls.
“The voting has been done using a communal angle. There is no Muslim representation in politics. We don’t have a voice and the government wants to suppress us further in a polarized environment,” he said.
“The Muslim minorities have accepted the government is not for us. We don’t even have any expectations from the government. Our concern has always been our safety.