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India's ruling party wins 3 of 4 states in elections in a boost for prime minister

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets party worker during celebrations following Bharatiya Janata Party's victory in the state elections at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.
AP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets party worker during celebrations following Bharatiya Janata Party's victory in the state elections at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

NEW DELHI — India's ruling Hindu nationalist party won in three of four state elections, according to results released Sunday from a crucial vote that pitted the main opposition party against that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi before national polls next year.

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, wrested control of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan states from Indian National Congress and was reelected in Madhya Pradesh for a record fifth term, according to the election commission's website.

The Congress party comfortably won in Telangana state, which is ruled by the strong Telangana Rashtra Samithi, known for opposing BJP.

Vote counting in a fifth state, Mizoram, is set for Monday where BJP's regional ally, the Mizo National Front, is in power.

The elections in the five states were held last month and more than 160 million people, or a sixth of India's electorate, were eligible to vote. Polling in India is generally done in phases owing to the large population.

Modi thanked voters for "their unwavering support" in the states where his party was victorious.

"The results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan indicate that the people of India are firmly with politics of good governance and development, which the @BJP4India stands for," Modi wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader, conceded defeat in the three states where his party lost. "The battle of ideology will continue," he wrote on X, and thanked the people of Telangana where his party won.

BJP workers celebrated, some danced wearing Modi masks, distributed sweets and smeared colors on each others' faces as mark of jubilations.

At the party headquarters in New Delhi, Modi walked among BJP activists who showered him with flower petals, chanting "Long live Mother India" and other slogans. In a speech, he said the results were "a victory for honesty, transparency and good governance."

Modi and his party remain popular on a national level after nearly a decade in power and surveys suggest he will win a third consecutive term in 2024. But a new alliance of 28 opposition parties, called INDIA, is expected to challenge Modi's party nationally. The acronym, which stands for Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, comprises India's previously fractured opposition parties and is led by the Congress party.

Both Modi and Gandhi flew across the five states to woo voters before the election. The charged-up voting campaigns witnessed both leaders promising voters subsidies, loan waivers and employment guarantees.

Modi will seek reelection next year at a time when India's global diplomatic reach is rising. But in recent polls, Congress has dented his party's image of invincibility by toppling local BJP governments in state elections in southern Karnataka and northern Himachal Pradesh.

The elections come at a time when India is facing multiple challenges, including rising unemployment, attacks by Hindu nationalists against the country's minorities, particularly Muslims, and a shrinking space for dissent and free media.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press