India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looked set on Tuesday to win key elections in the southern state of Karnataka, with a substantial lead over the incumbent Indian National Congress Party.
The BJP was ahead in 115 of the 216 seats for which elections were held on Saturday, according to the Election Commission.
A win in Karnataka would be regarded as a major boost for the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of general elections scheduled in 2019, and a setback for the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi.
With Karnataka, the BJP would be ruling in 22 of India's 29 states with the country's main opposition Congress party heading governments in only three states.
According to the latest numbers available from the Election Commission, the Congress party was leading in 63 seats in Karnataka and the Janata Dal (Secular), a regional party, in 40 seats.
Karnataka, which has a population of 64 million, is one of India's wealthiest states. Its capital Bengaluru is headquarters to top Indian information technology companies and a hub for start-ups.
Both Modi and Gandhi campaigned intensively in the state ahead of elections in which corruption, a water crisis and lawlessness were key issues.
"The Karnataka verdict reflects the belief of people in the prime minister and his hard work," BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The results are expected later on Tuesday.
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