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India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party won three out of four state elections this week, crucial votes that highlighted the growing strength of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of national polls next year, the Associated Press reported.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to take control of the states of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan from Rahul Gandhi’s Indian National Congress. The BJP also retained its control over its stronghold in Madhya Pradesh by securing a fifth term.

The Congress party comfortably won in Telangana state, previously dominated by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi party. The Zoram People’s Movement had taken control of Mizoram state.

The outcome of the vote underscored how Modi and his party have maintained their popularity, after almost a decade in power, analysts said, adding that it’s likely both will repeat this successful showing in federal elections next year.

If so, Modi would serve his third term.

Still, a new alliance of 28 opposition parties led by the Congress party, called INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), is expected to challenge Modi’s party nationally.

In other recent elections, Congress ousted BJP governments in two states, including Karnataka in the southwest, which belongs to the Dravidian linguistic group, as opposed to the Indo-Aryan group which includes Hindi, India’s predominant language.

Meanwhile, the rise of the BJP and Modi has also been marked by the rise of India as an international player – but has also seen a spike in oppression and violence by Hindu nationalists targeting ethnic and religious minorities, primarily Muslims.

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