Yogi Adityanath will return as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh with the BJP - a first for India's most politically vital state in 37 years - with an ever bigger vote share than last time, as election results were declared on Thursday.
Shortly before 9:30 am, NDTV called the election for the BJP, projecting more than 250 seats for the party out of the state's 403. By 10 am, the BJP, it seemed, could cross 300 - the ambitious target set by the party for itself.
The BJP has shored up 44.6 per cent of the vote - a significant 4 per cent improvement over the 2017 elections.
Addressing party workers at the state headquarters after the poll results and trends showed a clear BJP majority, Adityanath said, "People have buried the politics of caste and religion by ensuring the victory of BJP and its allies in Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
Seemingly taking a dig at Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for raising questions over Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs, he said the "misleading" campaign run by the opposition over the past two-three days have been set aside by the people who reposed faith in the good governance of the BJP.
The Samajwadi Party, trailing with roughly half the seats of the BJP, gained over the last election but fell far short of the party's expectations.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress were leading in five and four seats respectively. The Apna Dal (Sonelal) was leading in 11 seats and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in seven, according to latest trends.
Among those leading were Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur Urban, Akhilesh Yadav from Karhal, his party's Shivpal Yadav from Jaswant Nagar and Congress Legislature Party leader Aradhana Shukla from Rampur Khas (Pratapgarh).
Adityanath is heading for a landslide victory in Gorakhpur Urban seat, leading over his nearest rival, Samajwadi Party's Subhawati Shukla, by over 55,000 votes.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya is trailing from Sirathu seat by 82 votes, while Swami Prasad Maurya of the Samajwadi Party is also trailing from Fazil Nagar seat. Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu is trailing from Tumkuhi Raj.
With 80 parliamentary seats, Uttar Pradesh holds the key to power at the centre and could offer clues to the national mood before the 2024 general election.
Home to about a fifth of India's 135 crore people, UP sends the most legislators to parliament of any state.
A majority for the BJP would make it the first party to get a consecutive second term in more than three decades.
The Samajwadi Party, considered the biggest challenger of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, had stitched up a diverse coalition with smaller parties which it had hoped would supplement its Muslim-Yadav support base with voters from the Other Backward Classes.
Exit polls had predicted a comfortable majority for the BJP, despite the government's much-criticised handling of COVID-19, high unemployment, and anger over farm reforms that were cancelled last year after protests.
The BJP has long predicted it would retain the state because of policies such as free staples for the poor during the pandemic, a crackdown on crime, and its appeal to Hindu voters.