Modi's party set for landslide election win in India's Gujarat state

FILE PHOTO: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to his supporters as he arrives to cast his vote during the second and last phase of Gujarat state assembly elections in Ahmedabad, India, December 5, 2022. REUTERS/Amit Dave

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was headed for a landslide victory in his home state of Gujarat on Thursday, a big boost to the Hindu nationalist party ahead of general elections due in 2024.

The western industrial state is a bastion of the BJP, which has not lost state assembly elections there since 1995. Modi was Gujarat's chief minister for 13 years before becoming prime minister in 2014.

The BJP led in more that 80% of seats out of a total 182 in early counting of votes and was on its way to wrest a larger majority than in 2017, when it won 99 seats in the last state assembly elections.

The party was also set to surpass its best results in Gujarat when it won 127 seats in 2002.

Modi remains widely popular in the country, partly due to economic growth and also because of his strong base among India's Hindu majority population, despite critics pointing to rising inflation, unemployment and growing religious polarisation.

He is eyeing a third term as prime minister in 2024 and campaigned extensively across the state in the run up to the Gujarat vote.

The BJP's main opposition in Gujarat came from the Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged in 2012 out of an anti-corruption movement.

The 137-year-old Congress party led in 26 seats, far below the 77 seats it won in 2017, while the AAP was ahead in nine seats having won none the last time.

In another state election in the small northern state of Himachal Pradesh, the BJP was also hoping to ride on Modi's aggressive campaigning to retain power. The BJP and the Congress were neck and neck for seats in the 68-seat assembly.

Victories in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will come as a welcome boost for the BJP, which lost control of the municipal corporation in the national capital Delhi to the AAP, in results announced on Wednesday.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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