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Indian ruling party makes gains in eastern state poll


New Delhi / AP

India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party made dramatic gains in elections in the eastern state of Assam but trailed in four other states, the election commission said on Thursday.
Data from the commission as of late afternoon showed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies will form the government in Assam, which has been ruled by the opposition Congress party for 15 years.
Local parties dominated the results In West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala states, while the Congress party was leading in Pondicherry. Voting in the five states was held over six weeks and counting took place on Thursday. Modi and his party swept to a stunning victory in national elections in May 2014 and went on to win a string of state elections soon after. Each election was seen as a reflection of Modi’s charisma, with the prime minister personally leading each of the election campaigns. Modi’s style is unusual in India, where local leaders usually take the helm of campaigns for state polls.
But the BJP suffered serious setbacks last year, losing elections in Delhi that were swept by the anti-graft Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man’s Party. It was also defeated in the state of Bihar, where Modi campaigned aggressively.
Local polls are often seen as a barometer of the continuing popularity of the ruling national party, and the BJP’s dramatic inroads in Assam will help soften the blow of losing Delhi and Bihar.
“This win is historic by all standards. Phenomenal!” Modi tweeted shortly after early results showed his party’s victory was assured.
State elections also decide who controls the upper house of India’s Parliament. While the lower house, which the BJP controls, is significantly more powerful, the upper house is crucial for passing the legislation needed for economic reforms Modi’s government has promised.

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