Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his party to a historic electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday, bolstering his ability to push through key reforms at the Centre and putting him in a strong position to win a re-election in 2019. While the BJP and its allies won 324 of the state's 403 assembly seats, the Congress got just seven and its ally Samajwadi Party led by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav bagged 47. The margin of victory was the largest seen by any party in more than three decades. The BJP ended up with 312 seats on its own.
Modi said he was "overjoyed" with what he described as unprecedented support from all sections of the society.
"Thank you. Long live democracy!" he wrote in response to a congratulatory tweet from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Celebrations erupted outside the BJP offices in state capital Lucknow and its headquarters in Delhi with party workers dancing and splashing each other with paint as Holi came early.
Modi spearheaded his party's campaign in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP had a sweeping win during the 2014 parliamentary elections with 71 of the state's 80 Lok Sabha seats. He addressed two dozen rallies as the BJP chose to canvass without picking a chief ministerial candidate and banked solely on his popularity and development agenda in the state.
The poll victory in India's most populous state is also being viewed as vindication of the PM's sudden decision in November to outlaw high-denomination banknotes in a bid to curb corruption.
A visibly unmoved and smiling Akhilesh Yadav reached the Raj Bhavan in the evening and handed over his resignation to governor Ram Naik. The governor asked him to continue as chief minister until the next government is formed.
"In the entire elections, there were massive crowds in my rallies," he told the media. "I did not expect such a thing will happen. I hope the next government will work better than the SP government. The people might not have liked my expressway and they voted for the bullet train."
BSP chief Mayawati, whose party was decimated in the polls and got 19 seats, accused the BJP of tampering with electronic voting machines.
"It is a matter of common discussion here that even if a button is pressed for any other party, vote will be polled in favour of BJP," she said at a press conference in Lucknow.
The BJP was quick to hit back. "The Bua and Bhatija (Mayawati and Akhilesh) should accept the verdict of the people and should not humiliate it by raising questions," party state president Keshav Prasad Maurya told reporters.