Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has declared a historic victory in legislative assembly elections being held in the northeastern state of Assam. BJP and its allies are leading in 88 of the 126 seats.
The win is expected to help the party recover some of the morale it lost due to poll losses last year.
Assam has traditionally been the stronghold of the opposition, Indian National Congress, with Tarun Gogoi (of the Congress) being in power for 15 years. Thursday’s results, however, push the party to second place with a lead in 24 seats.
BJP leader Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate for the state, is being termed by local newspapers as a “national hero” for the party. This will be the first time that the country’s ruling right-wing nationalist party has come to power in the state that is, according to Reuters, “an underdeveloped state rife with ethnic and religious tension.”
Assam was one of five Indian states that were electing new legislatures. With the prime minister's goods and services tax bill reportedly stuck in the Rajya Sabha or the Council of States, state elections are of great importance for the party. This also extends the party’s influence beyond its “traditional heartland.”
The southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the eastern state of West Bengal have a small BJP presence. The elections showcased a decisive victory for regional parties there.
Analysts say that the vote share of the regional parties could affect the balance of power in the Council of States, giving a push to reform. According to Reuters, Rajiv Kumar of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, said, “ That will help the BJP pass these bills, provided it can develop a coalitional style of politics and reach out to these parties."
Congress, which had been the ruling party in the country for most of its independent years, only came to power, with a coalition, in the small union territory of Puducherry in these elections.