India elections: Uttar Pradesh likely to remain in BJP’s hands

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India elections: Uttar Pradesh likely to remain in BJP’s hands

LUCKNOW, India – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national governing party is set to remain in power in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, according to preliminary election results released on Thursday, despite rising economic hardship, with the party winning the elections. Repeatedly continued the record of success.

Mr Modi’s victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, is the first time in more than three decades that voters have returned an existing block to power in Uttar Pradesh, where some 240 million people live. This further cements the rise of Yogi Adityanath, a staunch Hindu monk who has been the state’s chief minister for five years and is increasingly seen as a possible successor to Mr. Modi.

Even before the results were out, a crowd of BJP supporters started reaching outside the party’s office in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. The mood was gleeful on the big screen with TV anchors counting seats and cheers and cheers from the youth.

Arpit Mishra, a 19-year-old party worker, said, “I am very happy that the BJP is winning.”

“They will give a push to Hindutva,” he said, referring to the party’s vision of re-shaping India along explicitly Hindu lines. “Our lives as Hindus will change.”

Results were also being released on Thursday from four other Indian states that had voted in the past month, suggesting that India’s opposition politics is undergoing a major transformation. Most notably, the Indian National Congress party, which had held power for most of India’s history since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, was continuing its rapid decline.

Preliminary results showed that the Congress was losing in Punjab, some of the states where it still held power, and was trailing the BJP in a close race in the smaller states of Goa and Uttarakhand. The Aam Aadmi Party, which controls Delhi, had a substantial edge in Punjab, raising the possibility that it would become the first small regional party in India to gain control of another state.

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Many regional parties are trying to look beyond the Congress to Mr. Modi, hoping to fight the 2024 general elections. Analysts say a victory in Punjab would give the common man – whose name means “common man” – an edge over other opposition factions.

Yet, while Mr. Modi’s party has sometimes fought against strong regional parties in state and general elections, it is an easy task to consolidate any of them into a proper opposition to challenge Mr. Modi’s hold on India. Or there won’t be a quick process. And the Congress, the largest opposition party with a national presence, appears increasingly vulnerable.

With exit polls indicating the race will be tight in both Goa and Uttarakhand, Congress leaders have in recent days tried to prevent any last-minute “poaching” by the BJP in both states – that is, to persuade the winning candidates. Attempt to switch sides. In 2017, the BJP used such tactics to form the government in Goa, even though the Congress won a plurality of seats.

This time, prominent Congress members gathered at a hotel in Goa, which party leaders said was a birthday celebration for one of them, and its candidates were given rooms overnight. Indian media reports said it was an attempt by the party to stick together and prevent last-minute maneuvers by the BJP.

Congress president Girish Chodankar in Goa said, “No one can hunt us down, even if they try their best.” “We have taken all precautions.”

Much of the attention during the election season has been focused on the prize state of Uttar Pradesh, not only because of its size but also how consequential it can be for the future of Indian politics.

Mr Adityanath faced a tough fight from the opposition Samajwadi Party, heavily criticized for its handling of Covid-19 in Uttar Pradesh and the worsening economic fallout. During the deadly second wave of the pandemic, the state’s health system collapsed, with reports of oxygen shortages. Photographs of dead bodies on the banks of the river Ganges, which are sacred to Hindus, were frequent.

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Still, analysts predict Mr. Adityanath will comfortably remain chief minister, even if he wins with a slightly smaller lead than in 2017 – again the BJP’s ability to mobilize and consolidate a strong support base despite short-term difficulties. confirm.

Mr Adityanath, who always wears his saffron sadhu attire in public, has carried forward Mr Modi’s vision of India as a “Hindu first” nation with his brand of strong politics.

Mr. Adityanath has publicly called his supporters “love jihad”: inter-religious marriage, which many Hindu nationalists claim is an attempt by only Muslim men to convert Hindu women. They have also banned the slaughter of cows considered sacred by many Hindus.

Mr. Adityanath has built gaushalas to house aged cattle, which were soon overfilled, so much so that in some parts of Uttar Pradesh, destruction of crops by stray cattle became an election issue.

He has also encouraged Hindu vigilante groups – some of which he helped start before becoming chief minister – to see if a ban on cattle slaughter was implemented, and to look into cases of “love jihad”. Which often leads to violence against Muslims.

Mr. Adityanath’s methods can “serve as a model for other states” in India, said Gilles Verniers, a professor of political science at Ashoka University who studies the politics of Uttar Pradesh.

Professor Verniers said, “We have seen some leaders cite Adityanath as a model – not only for his policies, his mix of religion and welfare, but for the strong politics he represents.”

Karan Deep Singh Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, and . reported from Mujeeb Mashalo from New Delhi. Hari Kumar Contributed reporting from New Delhi.

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