It’s set to be a special ‘Holi’ for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party he leads. Saffron is the reigning colour as wild celebrations erupted outside the BJP’s national headquarters in Delhi and UP’s capital city of Lucknow. Swamped by fervour of this huge victory, party activists splashed a rainbow of colours, distributed sweets and set off crackers.
Riding the crest of a spectacular Modi wave, the party is poised for an unprecedented landslide victory in the elections to the legislature in the politically key state of Uttar Pradesh. This is the first major test of Mr Modi’s popularity since last year’s demonetization aimed at curbing black money.
As trends emerged from the counting of ballots in legislative elections in UP and four other states, the BJP is also set to return to power with a thumping majority in the adjacent northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand after a break of five years, voting out the Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi.
However, the Congress is all set to roar back to power in Punjab state and coastal state of Goa after hiatus of a decade and is locked in a close battle with the BJP in the north eastern state of Manipur.
Polling in the five states were held between February and March this year.
The overarching focus of the March 11 vote-count was UP where the BJP’s stupendous sweep, spearheaded by none other than Mr Modi himself, saw the party positioning itself to win around 310 seats in the state legislative assembly out of the total of 403 seats. Latest trends indicate that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav-led ruling Samajwadi Party, which fought the poll in alliance with Congress, could get around 60 seats while Mayawati-headed Bahujan Samaj Party is far behind, leading in around 20 seats. The majority mark in the assembly is 202.
If the trend is converted into actual seats, it will mean a huge win for the BJP as no party has ever won 300-plus seats in UP before. This will be the first time that the BJP will grab stomp to power in the state on its own.
The victory in UP is crucial for prospects of Mr Modi and BJP in the 2019 parliamentary elections for a second successive five-year tenure as the northern state has the largest number of Lok Sabha seats – 80 out of the total 543 seats in the Lower House of Parliament.
Senior BJP leader and federal minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, a key aide of Prime Minister Modi, described the election result in UP as “a tectonic shift in the country’s politics” and said the first message is that this indicates “it is a bigger wave than 2014 (parliamentary) elections and that too after two and a half year of Modi government.
“I am very proud of my PM’s leadership and I am also very proud of the bold leadership of the party president Amit Shah and the kind of hard work he has put in the last 3-6 months with his team,” he added. “Uttar Pradesh is the “laboratory of India” and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “super win has proven Modiji’s vision,” Mr Prasad added.
The BJP’s spectacular victory in assembly polls in UP reinforced its historic performance in the parliamentary elections in the state two and half years ago when the party swept 72 of the 80 seats.
Akhilesh Yadav paid dearly primarily for two reasons: a bitter war in the family between him and his father and former Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and a huge anti-incumbency of five years.
The BJP also said its stupendous victory in UP is a ringing endorsement of Mr Modi’s decision in last November to scrap high-denomination currency notes in a bid to curb black money. The month-long demonetization drive had seen serpentine queues in front of banks and post offices across India as people rushed to deposit and exchange banned notes. The demonetization had come under fire from BJP’s rival parties.
Congress scores in Punjab
In another northern state of Punjab, where the assembly has a total of 117 seats, the Congress party is set to come back to power, toppling ruling Shiromani Akal Dal and its junior partner in the state BJP. The result is a perfect birthday gift for Congress’ top leader in the state Amarinder Singh who turned 75 on March 11/
The elections in Punjab saw Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party surging to no second spot with 22 seats in its debut in the battle of ballots in the state, pushing SAD-BJP down to third spot with 19 seats.
In Uttarakhand, the BJP is poised to return to power with three-fourth majority leading in 54 of the total of 70 seats while the state’s ruling Congress was far behind, ahead in 16 seats.