Narendra Modi is heading for a morale-boosting victory in India’s biggest state when the election results are announced there this weekend, according to two exit polls.
Exit polls released on Thursday evening after voting closed both showed prime minister Modi’s Bharaitya Janata Party and its smaller allies on course to become the largest bloc in Uttar Pradesh, home to 138m voters.
A poll for India News showed the group gaining 185 seats as compared with 120 for its nearest rival, the alliance between the local Samajwadi Party and Congress. Another for the Times Now news channel showed the BJP gaining between 190 and 210 seats, as compared with between 110 and 130 for the Congress-SP alliance.
Although neither result would give Mr Modi’s party an outright majority, it would prove a major boost to his political standing with two years left until the next general election. It would also add credence to his claims that voters are backing his recent move to scrap and replace 86 per cent of the country’s currency.
It would also prove a major blow for the Congress party, which has ruled India for the vast majority of its 70-year history as an independent country, but which lost in a landslide defeat to Mr Modi in 2014. The party had hoped its tie up with the ruling Samajwadi Party would help it recover a foothold in UP.
Meanwhile in Punjab, another of the handful of states being contested this year, exit polls differed as to whether Congress would win or whether the victor would be the Aam Aadmi Party, the anti-corruption party set up in 2012. Even a close second would be a major success for the AAP, which has never competed in a Punjab state election before.