By Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, March 12 (Xinhua) — The ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has won local elections in two Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand, while as opposition Congress party has swept Punjab.
In two other states of Goa and Manipur, the results presented a fractured verdict, with no political party gaining a clear majority. Congress has emerged as a leading party ahead BJP, but would need support from other parties to stake claim for government making.
BJP recorded a spectacular victory in India’s most populous Uttar Pradesh state with a population of 200 million and consolidated its position further in the political arena of India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who personally led an aggressive campaign in Uttar Pradesh state won 312 seats out of 403. His BJP routed the regional players, besides Congress party that had entered into a pre-poll alliance with incumbent Samajwadi Party. In neighboring Uttarakhand state out of 70 seats, BJP bagged 56 seats and is leading in one.
Congress party won seven seats, while as its alliance partner has won 47 seats.
BJP’s victory has come as referendum to Modi for his decision of demonetization (a step to ban high value currency notes) and promises of development, modernisation and uprooting corruption in a state where caste and religious affiliations are deeply entrenched.
As BJP did not promote any chief ministerial candidate, Modi was the face of campaign in the elections.
Modi’s radical move in November last year led to cash shortage and was opposed by all opposition parties besides common people, who faced lots of hardships in banks.
During 2014 India’s general election, BJP won 71 seats from Uttar Pradesh. Modi, who is basically from the western state of Gujarat, also managed to get elected from Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi constituency.
The latest victory in local elections would strengthen BJP’s position in the upper house of Indian parliament (Rajya Sabha) where it is in a minority and often faces difficulty in pushing legislation of key laws.
The victory in the adjacent Uttarakhand state too enhanced BJP’s image and Modi’s stature. With these victories the BJP now rules in more than a dozen of India’s 29 states.
Critics view Modi’s performance in the Uttar Pradesh elections as a precursor for his second term victory in 2019 India’s general elections, although he is midway through his first term.
“In a nutshell there is no leader today with a pan India acceptability who can take on Modi and the BJP in 2019,” wrote Omar Abdullah, an Indian politician and ally of Congress. “At this rate we might as well forget 2019 and start planning, hoping for 2024.”
The main opposition Congress party has won 77 seats out of 117 in Punjab. However BJP only got three seats, while as its alliance partner, the regional Shiromani Akali Dal won 15 seats.
For the new entrant India’s anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (common man’s party) the defeat in Punjab and Goa proved to be a setback and dashed their hopes to hold power outside national capital Delhi. The party won 20 seats in Punjab but couldn’t make a debut in Goa.
However in Goa and Manipur neither BJP nor Congress has managed to gain majority. With Congress emerging as leading party in both the states, reports said it has started engaging in closed door negotiations with other parties to forge alliance in order to stake claim for government formation.
India’s election commission, an independent body conducted the polls in these five states during several phases from Feb. 4 to March 8. Counting of votes was out on Saturday.
A close look at the elections in these five states suggest anti-incumbency factor has played a key role in the final results as no party has managed to retain their states.
Analysts said though landslide victory in key state of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have given a boost to BJP, however performance of Congress party in three other states — Punjab, Goa and Manipur suggest the main opposition is not out as yet.