Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led the BJP to a massive victory in Uttar Pradesh, with the party now ahead in almost 300 of the state's 403 seats. It needs 202 to form government. The BJP is also set to sweep neighbouring Uttarakhand. In Punjab, the Congress looks set to stage a comeback. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party is likely to be the day's biggest loser. Votes are being counted for assembly elections in five states today.
Three hours into counting, the BJP had raced ahead in 301 seats in UP, a whopping gain of 253 seats over its tally of 48 in the 2012 assembly election. The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance was a poor second, leading in 72 seats, down 181. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party was leading only in 22 seats.
In Punjab, the Congress was leading in 69 seats, up 23 seats from 2012. Arvind Kejriwal's AAP was ahead in 26 seats in its debut election, and the incumbent Akali Dal-BJP is last with 21 seats, down 47. A party needs 59 seats for a majority in the 117-member Punjab assembly.
The BJP and the Congress are neck-and-neck in Goa, but at 10 am trends were available only for only half of the state's 40 seats.
In the hill state of Uttarakhand, the BJP has established an unassailable lead, ahead in 55 of the state's 70 sets. If trends sustain, the party will get an absolute majority in the state. The Congress is leading only in 9 seats.
The ruling Congress is leading in Manipur. The BJP is in second place. Trends were available for only 31 of the state's 60 seats yet.
The mega UP election, held in seven rounds, is seen as a bellwether for the 2019 national election. PM Modi was the face of the BJP's campaign for the most important election he has faced since he led his party to victory in the 2014 national election.
An outright win in UP will be an endorsement of the PM's stewardship of the economy after his high-risk decision last November to scrap 500 and 1,000 rupee notes worth 86 per cent of the cash in circulation, aimed at eliminating corruption and black money. It will also improve the BJP's strength in the Rajya Sabha or upper house of parliament where the government is in a minority and has trouble pushing legislation.
UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, seeking a second straight term for his Samajwadi Party, partnered with the Congress in a strategy that failed.
The Congress has done disastrously in recent elections and another string of losses today will raise more questions on the leadership of the party's vice president Rahul Gandhi. A win in Punjab will be the best news the Congress will have heard for months.
Arvind Kejriwal's AAP had debuted in two states this year - Punjab and Goa - hoping to replicate its success in the Delhi assembly elections two years ago. AAP has not opened its account in Goa yet and is currently last in Punjab.