Local media claimed that a fiery monk and Hindu nationalist poster boy was likely to retain power in India’s most populous state on Thursday, in a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party.
Following elections in Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of more than 200 million people, media projections showed the Bharatiya Janata Party on the verge of a comfortable although decreased majority.
A win in the state with a population larger than Brazil would boost Yogi Adityanath’s hopes of succeeding Modi as Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy.
Among the five regions that have had elections in recent weeks, Uttar Pradesh is the most prized. It has been the power foundation of most Indian prime ministers because it sends the most MPs to the national assembly.
Experts say Adityanath’s divisive sectarian language, along with exaggerated claims about his economic performance in one of India’s poorest states, has won him votes.
According to journalist and Modi biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, the victory marks a “huge affirmation of the kind of aggressive and hardnosed politics that he has been pursuing.”
Adityanath, a 49-year-old saffron-robed Hindu priest, came from poor origins to become the chief priest of a major Hindu temple and to create a vigilante youth group.
Its volunteers routinely beat up Muslims and Dalits who are suspected of murdering cows, which are sacred to Hindus, or of attempting to seduce Hindu girls.
According to detractors, his administration has enacted legislation prohibiting “love jihad” — Muslims marrying Hindus in order to convert them — and has targeted journalists and others with bogus “sedition” charges.
According to media accounts, more than 100 accused offenders, the majority of whom are Muslims or Dalits, have been killed by extrajudicial police killings, which Adityanath rejects.
His economic performance is equally dismal, and his government is generally blamed for botching the response to COVI-19, including concealing the true death toll.
The BJP is also expected to retain power in Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa, a small coastal state, despite a tight contest.
In a major defeat to the Gandhi dynasty’s once-dominant party, the opposition Congress appears to have lost Punjab in the north to the upstart left-wing Aam Aadmi Party, which also governs the capital New Delhi.