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BJP poised for gains in India state polls
From the Financial Times of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 07:32:55 GMT
Indian women display their voting card as they queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Satritan border village, some 30 kms from Jammu on December 20, 2014. The final phase of voting in state assembly elections in northern Jammu and Kashmir state and central Jharkhand state is taking place. (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)©Getty

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party appeared poised to take over the mineral-rich but economically backward state of Jharkhand on Tuesday, while the troubled Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir was headed for a hung parliament, as results were counted in two state elections.

The BJP was just a few seats short of a majority in Jharkhand, putting it in position to take power from the local party now running the impoverished state, which has had nine different governments since it was carved out of Bihar in 2000.

“For the first time since Jharkhand state was created, we see a stable government likely to be formed,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s communication minister and a BJP spokesman.

In Jammu and Kashmir the BJP was running second to the Kashmir-based People’s Democratic party in a state still scarred by decades of Muslim separatist insurgency and New Delhi’s tough military tactics to repress it.

The BJP fell far short of making major inroads into the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unprecedented efforts to woo voters there, where he held a huge campaign rally in the state capital, Srinagar. The BJP had openly declared its goal of winning 44 seats in the state.

However, the party performed strongly in the Hindu-dominated regions of the state, riding on the national wave of popularity of Mr Modi, who led the BJP to the first single-party parliamentary majority in elections in May.

Analysts said the numbers meant the BJP could well emerge as a junior partner in a new ruling coalition for the state, which would be a big boost for the party.

Indian media reported that talks between the PDP and BJP had already begun.

“By any yardstick the BJP ought to be pleased with itself, and ought to have been judged as a success,” Siddharth Varadarajan, a senior fellow at the Shiv Nadar University’s Centre for Public Affairs and Critical Theory, told Indian television as votes were being counted.

Mr Varadarajan pointed out that it was by no means inevitable that the PDP and BJP would come to an understanding to form a ruling coalition. The BJP has long opposed the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir in India’s constitution, a position that could hamper efforts to form an alliance with the PDP, which draws its support from Kashmiri Muslims.

“Several combinations are possible and not all of them involve the BJP,” said Mr Varadarajan. “The BJP is likely to be quite disappointed.”

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