Modi's Hindu-nationalist BJP expected to retain power in India's largest state sparking fears for Muslims
Exit polls from India News, India TV-CNX, and Zee News suggest the ruling BJP is set for a comfortable win in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with a population of over 204 million people.
Voting was conducted over seven phases from 10 February to 7 March with exit polls suggesting the Hindu nationalist BJP are likely to pass the line as winners.
Incumbent Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is also confident, predicting the BJP will win 300 out of 403 seats in the local assembly and boasting that his opponents have "already booked their tickets" out of the country.
"It is the BJP who will win, it is Yogi who will win. Every mother and sister, every young person, and every rich man and farmer from Uttar Pradesh is saying it," he said.
Analysts say that if the ruling BJP does win the election it will be a massive boost to the party's prospects in the upcoming 2024 national election.
Several Indian states have been to the polls in recent weeks, and the results for elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur, and Uttar Pradesh will all be announced on the same day, likely Thursday.
The vote comes amid growing discrimination against India's marginalised Muslim population, who constitute nearly 20 percent of Utter Pradesh's population.
Day-to-day discrimination in India is marginalising Muslims, who number constitute nearly 20% of UP’s population(40M). As state votes to elect a new govt, Muslims tell BBC that under BJP’s Hindu nationalist rule, they have become “second-class citizens”https://t.co/OKtd7HYzXM— Vinod Kumar Jha (@vkjha62) March 2, 2022
The BJP has ruled the state since 2017. The current chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, is a Hindu monk turned politician who is notorious for antagonising India's minority Muslim population.
He has previously likened Muslims to a "virus", claimed that Hindu and Muslim cultures cannot co-exist, and lent air to the pernicious "love jihad" conspiracy theory, which purports that Muslim men marry Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam.
Since he came to power, activists say that Muslims have been mistreated, boycotted, and killed with impunity.
More than 100 alleged criminals - most of them Muslims or low caste Hindus called Dalits - were killed in "encounters" with the police since 2017. Rights groups allege these were extrajudicial killings, a charge that the government denies.
Adityanath's ruthless and brutal regime has created a sense of fear for Muslims living in the state, and his victory could be viewed as a mandate for him to continue, or even ramp up, his anti-Muslim stance.
Modi's BJP has long been accused of discriminating against Indian Muslims. The recent hijab controversy in BJP-ruled Karnataka was an indication of the party and the country of becoming even more hardline, and could be a warning for secular Indians if it the party retains power in New Delhi in 2024.