Modi's party breaks new ground in two Indian states

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2014 7:00 AM

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party made big electoral gains in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir and captured power in an eastern state on Tuesday, underscoring the Hindu nationalist's dominance of the political landscape.

The Bharatiya Janata Party won 25 of 87 seats in Kashmir, its best showing ever in the Muslim-majority state, but still way short of a simple majority that it wanted to seize power.

Modi himself campaigned heavily across Kashmir, a top priority for his party which wants closer integration of the revolt-torn Himalayan region with the rest of the country.

Still, it will remain a key player in the state where no single group attained a majority, raising the prospect of a coalition government led by the regional People's Democratic Party (PDP) which won 28 seats.

The rest of the seats were shared by regional parties, the Congress party and independents.

Separatists rejected the election and militants stepped up attacks to disrupt the month-long vote. Pakistan stakes a claim to the territory and calls for talks to resolve the 67-year-old dispute at the heart of hostility between the nuclear armed neighbors.

"In Jammu and Kashmir we have improved our position significantly. We are now a relevant party in Jammu and Kashmir," Amit Shah, the president of the BJP, told a press conference in New Delhi as the results came in.

"I believe that voters have endorsed Modi's style of governance."

Modi came to power in May promising to revive economic growth after the deepest slowdown in a decade under the previous Congress government. He has since won a clutch of state elections.

Voters in the mineral-rich Jharkhand state - the other state to go to the polls - gave the BJP a clear majority, potentially making it easier for Modi's government to kickstart mining projects urgently needed to reduce energy shortages.

State elections determine the number of seats parties have in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament where Modi's group lacks a majority.

The opposition blocked his plans to push through a legislation to increase foreign participation in the insurance sector in the session of parliament that ended on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar,Imran Khan in Patna, Writing by Rupam Jain Nair, editing by Sanjeev Miglani)