India PM Modi's home state Gujarat set to vote his party into power - exit polls

AHMEDABAD, India, Dec 5 (Reuters) - India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to win a comfortable majority in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat, three exit polls showed on Monday, cementing the party's fortunes ahead of national elections due in 2024.

The western industrial state is a bastion of the Hindu-nationalist BJP, which has has not lost state assembly elections there since 1995. Modi served as Gujarat's chief minister for 13 years before becoming prime minister in 2014.

Modi remains widely popular in the country, partly due to economic growth and also because of his strong base among India's Hindu majority population, despite critics pointing to rising inflation, unemployment and growing religious polarisation. He is eyeing a third term in 2024.

The BJP faced a tough battle in the days leading up to the polls against the main opposition, the Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged in 2012 out of an anti-corruption movement.

The 137-year-old Congress party is expected to lose many of its seats while the AAP is expected to make some gains, exit polls show.

A projection by ABP-CVoter showed that the BJP would win 128 to 140 seats, which would give it a larger majority than in 2017, when it won 99 seats out of total 182.

The Congress is projected to win 31 to 43 seats, nearly half of the 77 seats it won in 2017, while the AAP is expected to gain three to 11 seats from zero, according to ABP-CVoter. Results are due on Thursday.

Broadcaster TV9 Gujarati's exit poll projected 125 to 130 seats for the BJP, 40 to 50 seats for the Congress, and three to five seats for the AAP.

A projection by broadcaster News X - Jan Ki Baat showed 117 to 140 seats for BJP, 34 to 51 for the Congress and six to 13 for the AAP.

Reporting by Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad and Shivam Patel in New Delhi; Editing by Nick Macfie

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