BJP leads in Gujarat, says it will win



Ahmedabad, Dec 20 (IANS) The ruling BJP forged ahead Thursday in Gujarat as officials counted millions of votes, with a party leader saying that it was confident of retaining power in the state.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates were leading over their rivals in 97 of the 152 constituencies where trends were available within 90 minutes after the vote count started at 8 a.m.

The Congress, which had been hoping to unseat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was ahead in 52 of the total 182 seats. 

The Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of former BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel appeared to be on the winning track in three places.

"There is every indication that the BJP is coming back to power in Gujarat," asserted party spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman.

No result had been declared yet, the officials said.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi was set to win in Maninagar, his home constituency, the officials said.

Before the vote count started across the state at 8 a.m., Modi confidant Amit Shah asserted that the BJP was sure to bag a two-thirds majority in the 182-member Gujarat assembly.

The GPP said the Congress should have allied with it.

GPP leader Gordhan Zadaphia said a GPP-Congress alliance could have ousted Modi, who has ruled Gujarat since 2001 and who tweeted Thursday in the run up to the vote count: "No need to look behind."

Gujarat Congress leader Ameeben Yagnik admitted: "We will have to work harder in Gujarat."

The BJP won 117 seats in 2007. Exit polls have predicted a massive win for the BJP in Gujarat.

Political pundits have said that a widely predicted Modi win -- the third time he would be taking the BJP to victory in Gujarat -- could have him playing a larger role in national politics.

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