BJP wins win key state poll in India
Ahmedabad, December 23, 2007
India's Hindu nationalists were headed for a strong majority in a key state election on Sunday, a verdict that was expected to influence national politics ahead of parliamentary polls.
Television channels said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was set to return to power for a fourth term in the western state of Gujarat, with leads in 116 of the state's 182 assembly constituencies.
The Congress party, which heads the federal coalition and had put up a stiff challenge to the BJP's controversial state Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was ahead in about 60 seats.
Congress conceded defeat. "It is a great victory for him, it is a remarkable victory," Abhishek Singhvi, the party's national spokesman, told the NDTV news channel, referring to Modi. "We congratulate him."
The booming but communally divided western state voted in two stages on December 11 and 16.
The verdict is expected to add muscle to the BJP nationally and further pressure Congress, already buffeted by its communist allies over a nuclear energy deal with the United States.
Congress was hoping that a shock win in Gujarat would revive its fortunes and possibly force early national elections.
National polls are due by mid-2009 but could come earlier.
Modi had been a favourite to win a third straight term. Exit polls conducted by TV channels, which have not been entirely accurate in the past, had predicted a BJP win but with a loss of a substantial number of seats. But the trends indicated the BJP had not lost much ground. - Reuters