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NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party was set for a resounding victory but a reduced majority at elections in the country's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, exit polls forecast Monday.

Exit polls are not always reliable in India, but an average of four indicated that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led in the state by firebrand monk Yogi Adityanath, would win 240 seats -- more than enough for a majority in the 403-seat assembly.

The official results for the bellwether state, which is home to more than 200 million people, will be announced on Thursday.

Voting took place over several weeks in different rounds, the last of which was on Monday.

The BJP won by a landslide in the previous state election in 2017, sweeping 312 seats in the state, which sends more lawmakers to the national parliament than any other.

The BJP's main rival Samajwadi (Socialist) Party, which has been seeking to tap into discontent over job losses and rising prices, was predicted to finish second with 150 seats.

Regional party claims it will beat BJP in India’s biggest state election

Experts say the result in Uttar Pradesh will be viewed as a referendum on Modi, who was re-elected in 2019 and could seek a third term in 2024.

Results are also due in four other states that have voted.

Monday's exit polls also projected a landmark win for the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab, on the border with Pakistan and home to the Sikh community.

The anti-corruption AAP was predicted to take the state from the Gandhi dynasty's Congress party, which it is looking to displace as the main opposition to the BJP.

It would be the first victory for the AAP outside the capital Delhi, where it has been in power since 2015.

In the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand a close fight was anticipated between the incumbent BJP and Congress.

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