The main opposition Congress party in India appeared likely to win elections in the southern state of Karnataka on Saturday, soundly beating the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a significant boost to its hopes ahead of national elections next year.

The election is the first of five critical state elections this year, which are expected to set the tone for parliamentary elections in April and May 2024.

It is also the first major election clash between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP and the Congress since Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was convicted of defamation and lost his parliamentary seat in March.

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