(Bloomberg) -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide election in his home turf Gujarat, showing his appeal with voters remains intact despite higher living costs.
The victory in the western state of Gujarat will help the 72-year-old leader build momentum for national elections due in less than 18 months. Modi is looking to extend his time as prime minister for a third term then.
The BJP won a majority — 142 seats — in a 182-member assembly in Gujarat, exceeding the results in the previous election, according to the ongoing vote tally by the election commission of India.
The election took place as India’s economy faces considerable global headwinds as well as soaring inflation and unemployment. Modi was the star campaigner for his party and addressed dozens of rallies.
“Overall he was able to keep voters support intact in spite of economic hardship,” said Neelanjan Sircar, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research. “The winning momentum will help him to remain ahead of his rivals in 2024 as opposition is in disarray.”
Television footage showed BJP supporters, including women, cheering for the party’s success by playing drums and dancing under giant makeshift tents and on the streets in Gujarat.
The victory follows the BJP’s sweep of state elections in India’s most populous and politically significant state of Uttar Pradesh in March.
The ruling party has “unmatched organizational machinery on the ground,” said Rahul Verma, a visiting assistant professor at Ashoka University. The BJP has a “formidable social coalition” in Gujarat, making it difficult for its “weak” and “fragmented” rival to end its nearly three-decade rule in the state.
In northern Himachal Pradesh, it was a different story. The opposition Congress party won 39 seats in the ongoing tally — comfortably passing the halfway mark of victory — out of 68 seats while BJP was ahead in 25, signaling that inflation and unemployment could still be a cause of concern for the ruling party ahead of the 2024 national election.
Congress wrested control of the Himalayan state from the BJP. While this would be a setback for Modi and the BJP, they still enjoy widespread support among the majority Hindu population with their social welfare schemes and Hindu nationalist rhetoric.
Losing the state is not “so much a loss” for BJP as its voting share is still “healthy” and the state is “traditionally seen electoral flips every election,” said Madhavi Arora, an economist at Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd, while adding that the “structural issues of rising costs and youth unemployment could be a concern to hurt BJP’s winning prospects of the 2024 national polls.”
(Updates with latest number of winners throughout)
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