Modi’s BJP takes big lead over Congress in Karnataka

New Delhi: India’s ruling party was big leading on Monday as votes were counted from an election in Karnataka seen as a gauge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity ahead of general election next year.

BJP all set to form government in Karnataka as per trends.

Karnataka, currently ruled by the Congress party, is home to the technology hub of Bengaluru. It is the first major state electing an assembly this year and will be followed by three more.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was leading in 112 seats in the elections to the 225-seat state assembly, versus 57 for Congress, the Times Now news channel said. Another channel, CNN News 18, showed the BJP leading in 104 seats and Congress in 60.

The BJP now rules 21 of India’s 29 states.

A regional group, Janata Dal (Secular) together with smaller ally the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), was leading in 37 seats and is likely to play kingmaker if no party emerges a clear winner.

Janata Dal leader H D Deve Gowda said his party would decide its position “once all the results are out”, CNN News 18 quoted the former Indian prime minister as saying.

Investors are watching the contest closely as they worry a loss for Modi would force him to double down on populist measures, such as extending farm loan waivers a year before the 2019 elections.

The benchmark Nifty extended gains to nearly 1 percent as the BJP improved its tally.

If Modi failed to capture Karnataka, a state of 66 million people, that would re-energise Congress under Rahul Gandhi, the fifth-generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that is trying to exploit dissatisfaction over a lack of jobs for young people and rising fuel prices.

Both Gandhi and Modi addressed rallies across the state to drum up support.

Inputs with Reuters