Bucking anti-incumbency and proving critics wrong, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday scripted history by retaining power in four of the five Indian states that went to polls last month.
The BJP not only swept back to victory with a thumping majority in India's largest and politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, seen as a referendum on PM Modi halfway through his second term in power, but also won Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
The fifth state -- Punjab in northern India -- however went to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by former civil servant-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, that unseated the country's main opposition Congress by a huge margin. AAP currently governs Delhi.
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP, led by monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath, came back to power for the second consecutive five-year term, bucking anti-incumbency and staving off a massive challenge from the state's main opposition Samajwadi Party.
The BJP safely crossed the 250 mark in the 403-member assembly, as per latest results and trends published by India's Election Commission. The Samajwadi Party, led by its young leader and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, came a distant second.
Uttar Pradesh voted in seven phases --February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27, and March 3 and 7 -- adhering to all Covid-safety protocols.
While the opposition parties harped on issues like rising joblessness, high inflation and the BJP's Hindutva politics, the BJP highlighted law-and-order problems during the Samajwadi Party rule. The party's poll campaign was spearheaded by Modi.
Uttar Pradesh is crucial for the saffron outfit as it's said that the road to Delhi passes through Lucknow, its capital, and the party that wins the state stands a fair chance of forming the next federal government. The general elections in India are due in 2024.