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Exit polls show India's ruling Bharatiya Janata party poised to win 2 key states

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NEW DELHI — India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party looked poised to win elections in two state legislatures where it has been on the fringes for many years, several exit polls predicted.

At least four exit polls released late Wednesday after polling concluded showed the BJP with either a majority or a significant number of seats in the western state of Maharashtra and the northern state of Haryana, both currently ruled by India's Congress party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won a huge mandate in national elections earlier this year, aggressively campaigned in both states. The results are expected to strengthen his hand and help him push through with sweeping economic reforms that he has promised. Final results from the elections are expected Sunday.

State elections decide who controls the Rajya Sabha, or upper house of India's Parliament. Maharashtra sends 19 lawmakers to the 245-member Rajya Sabha and Haryana sends five. While the Lok Sabha, or lower house, is significantly more powerful, the Rajya Sabha can delay legislation's approval.

PHOTO: Indians stand in a queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. The Indian states Haryana and Maharashtra are going to the polls Wednesday to elect representatives to their respective state Assemblies. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
Indians stand in a queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. The Indian states Haryana and Maharashtra are going to the polls Wednesday to elect representatives to their respective state Assemblies. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

A victory in the recent elections would also show that Modi and his right-wing party are continuing to make inroads into regions where the Congress party has held sway.

In many ways, though, the results appear more about Mode's popularity than about his party's overall appeal. Modi is widely seen as a leader who can turn around India's sluggish economy and attract more foreign investment. He made dozens of speeches in both states and television and radio advertisements ahead of the polls exhorted voters to cast their vote for Modi.

Last month, his party fared badly in by-elections when he wasn't the party's star campaigner.

In Maharashtra, both the Congress and the BJP have ended longtime political alliances, choosing to fight the election on their own. Two exit polls showed the BJP inching past the majority mark on its own while two others showed it as the single largest party but short of a majority.

Maharashtra is home to Mumbai, the country's financial capital.

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