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Gujarat state elections: Ruling BJP win but with reduced margin

NEW DELHI Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory yesterday in two state elections, including a closely fought race in his stronghold of Gujarat where the charismatic leader fronted the campaign.

Modi thanked voters in Gujarat, his home state in India's west, and the northern Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, for backing the ruling Hindu national party in the local polls.

"I bow to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh for their affection and trust in BJP," Modi posted on his official Twitter account, using the initials of his Bharatiya Janata Party.

"I assure them that we will leave no stone unturned in furthering the development journey of these states and serve the people tirelessly."

The BJP was on track to win 99 seats in the 182-seat Gujarat state assembly - a party needs 92 seats to rule the state - yesterday evening as counting continued, the Election Commission of India said.

That result would return the BJP to power for a sixth consecutive term in the bellwether state, but slash its majority from 115 seats in the last election.

A combined opposition led by the Congress party - headed by Rahul Gandhi, who formally took over as party president at the weekend - had mounted a tough challenge in Gujarat, hoping to weaken Modi in his home base by exploiting discontent over a lack of jobs and a national sales tax that has hit business.

"If they had lost Gujarat, the BJP would have collapsed like a pack of cards," said Congress member Sharmistha Mukherjee.

"This is their citadel, they threw everything at it."

- WIRE SERVICES

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