BJP workers danced in the streets and splashed each other with coloured paints in celebrations.
BJP workers danced in the streets and splashed each other with coloured paints in celebrations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won by a landslide in India's most populous state on Saturday in a massive vote of confidence for the prime minister halfway into his first term.

Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP claimed victory in four states including Uttar Pradesh in the north, which is home to 220 million people and seen as a key indicator of national politics.

BJP leader Amit Shah said the party would also form governments in Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.

"This is a historic mandate by the people of these states for BJP," he said at a press conference at the party's New Delhi headquarters.

India's Election Commission is due to announce the final results later Saturday, but early counting shows the BJP leading in four out of five states where elections have been held over the past two months.

The opposition Congress Party retained power in just one state, northern Punjab.

Modi's right-wing BJP wresting control of crucial Uttar Pradesh state – that sends 80 MPs to the lower house of Indian parliament – would be a ringing endorsement of Modi despite his high-risk decision last November to scrap high-value banknotes worth 86 percent of the cash in circulation.

Celebrations erupted outside BJP offices in the state capital Lucknow and Delhi, with party workers dancing in the streets and splashing each other with coloured paints.

It is an extraordinary win for the party – senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad

Communal politics?

In Uttar Pradesh, a largely poor and agricultural state, Modi pitched himself as a man on the side of the poor prepared to hit the corrupt rich hard with his demonetisation drive.

Critics accuse his party of stirring communal tensions to shore up votes among its core Hindu base.

Maoist ambush soldiers

BJP's celebrations were marred with the killing of 12 paramilitary commandos in Chhattisgarh state – the latest in the country's simmering internal conflict.

"We can confirm that 11 security personnel have lost their lives in the ambush which was carried out by Maoist rebels in Sukma district," police deputy inspector general Sundarraj P said.

The death toll was revised to 12 by the influential Indian news agency ANI.

Modi condemned the attack in statements on Twitter.

The Maoist rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of tribal people and landless farmers, are believed to be present in at least 20 states but are most active in five central and western Indian states, occupying thousands of square kilometres of land.

The decades-long armed rebellion is believed to have cost tens of thousands of lives, with much action focused around the rebel-dominated, so-called "Red Corridor" stretching through central and eastern India.

Previous government of Congress and BJP consider the Maoist rebellion the biggest threat to India's internal security.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies