Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party made big gains in two Indian state elections, partial results showed on Sunday, in an endorsement that will encourage him to step up the pace of economic reforms.
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led in 113 of 288 seats in Maharashtra, NDTV news said. That more than doubled its seat count in the western state that is home to Mumbai, the financial capital, but fell short of an outright majority.
The BJP was ahead in 50 of 90 seats in Haryana, which borders the capital, New Delhi, enough to rule alone. The party's showing was just down from the May general election, when it won India's first parliamentary majority in 30 years.
The 64-year-old Modi, a gifted stump orator, hit the campaign trail hard and will be able to reap capital from the victories, although the BJP did not achieve its ambition to rule Maharashtra alone.
"There is a Modi wave," said Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar. "People want a leader who can deliver, people want a leader who is honest."
Both states, which voted on Wednesday, were bastions of the Congress party that has long dominated Indian politics. As in the general election, Congress was decimated, and risks sliding into oblivion under mother-son duo Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
"Today is likely to be both a BJP win and a funeral of a 150-year-old party," said investment manager and columnist Surjit Bhalla, referring to the party founded in 1885 and led by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty for four generations.
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Modi had already seized on exit polls giving the BJP a clear lead to shake up his economic team, replacing the top civil servant at the finance ministry and hiring U.S.-based economist Arvind Subramanian as his chief economic adviser.
His government on Saturday scrapped diesel price controls and raised the cost of natural gas, giving market forces greater sway as it seeks to attract energy investment, boost competition and cut subsidy costs.