MUMBAI (AFP) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing party snatched election victory on Sunday in two key Indian states, tightening its grip on power after storming to government nationally five months ago.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was leading in Maharashtra, of which financial hub Mumbai is the capital, streaks ahead of its centre-left rival Congress party which has ruled the western state for 15 years.
“BJP will definitely form the government in Maharashtra,” a triumphant BJP state president Devendra Fadnavis told reporters in Mumbai, flashing a victory sign, as vote counting continued.
Celebrations erupted at BJP headquarters in Mumbai, with supporters lighting fire crackers, feeding each other sweets, throwing flower petals and shouting “long live mother India”.
The BJP also won in northern Haryana, which borders New Delhi, handing the once-powerful Congress a humiliating defeat after its 10-year rule of the state.
The defeat was yet another blow for the ailing Congress, whose Gandhi dynasty has produced three prime ministers, following its thumping loss to the BJP at the national polls in May.
“Like the Congress earlier got the mandate, now the BJP got the mandate and will form the government,” despondent outgoing Haryana chief minister BS Hooda told reporters.
Modi, a popular leader and fiery orator, campaigned doggedly for the elections held last week and the victories are likely to encourage him to push ahead with promised reforms, some of which could prove unpopular.
The nationalist leader won a landslide win at national polls on a pledge to revive the ailing economy and clean up endemic corruption, but many of the reforms are yet to be introduced.
On the eve of the results, Modi’s government lifted controls on diesel prices, aiming to give market forces greater influence on the economy, attract investment and cut subsidies.
Success for the BJP would also strengthen its power in the national parliament’s upper house, crucial for the passing of contentious laws. The BJP currently lacks a majority in that chamber whose composition is based on seats won in regional assemblies.