Modi to be PM again as BJP eyes huge victory

Last Updated 23 May 2019, 16:08 IST

Narendra Modi will be India’s prime minister again after his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looked set for a landslide win on Thursday in the world’s biggest general election.

With all 542 seats reporting, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has won 218 seats with leads in another 131 for a total of 349 seats, which is ahead of its remarkable 2014 win, and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance has won 57 seats with leads in another 36 for a total of 93 seats.

Exit polls released last week pointed to a large victory for the BJP, which was a chance to create history with back-to-back clear mandates.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi is headed for a loss to his main rival Smriti Irani in the Gandhi family bastion of Amethi and the BJP looks to confound all expectations by repeating their 2014 landslide in India’s most populous state. Rahul has won his second seat of Wayanad in Kerala. Meanwhile, Modi has won in Varanasi by a huge margin of 4,79,505 votes against his Samajwadi Party rival.

Elections were held to 542 seats, with the poll in Vellore constituency cancelled. A simple majority is 272 seats.

Stock markets cheered the verdict, with the Bombay Sensex climbing 2.6% or 1,000 points, breaching the 40,000 mark for the first time in history.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, seen as a key member of the Opposition formation that could counter Modi, was getting knocked out in his own state, where Assembly elections were held. He lost the state with a total of wins+leads of just 23 seats against Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP party's which won 130 and leads in another 21. In the Lok Sabha elections in his state, Naidu was leading in just 3 seats compared to 6 wins and 16 leads for Reddy.

In Karnataka, the BJP was heading for a near-sweep, winning 23 seats and leading in 2 out of 28. This threatens the survival of the JD(S)-Congress coalition in the state.

In Bengal, the BJP's stab at history may have to wait as the Trinamool party of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has won 22 seats and leads in 1 while the NDA has won 17 and also leads in 1.

At the Centre, the BJP’s campaign has been centred around Modi, who managed to make this a presidential-type election.

The Congress created a minor flutter with a well-thought-out manifesto but then lost its way in the face of an aggressive and sometimes cynical campaign by the BJP that made use of the leniency of the Election Commission. The BJP is also likely to have gained from retaliatory air strikes against Pakistan after a terror attack in Kashmir, and a strong showing on the infrastructure front.

Like him or loathe him, Prime Minister Modi is seen as a strong and decisive leader, and it appears that voters have leaned towards a clear and stable choice versus the possible chaos that could follow an Opposition victory, with many claimants for the top job.

Leaders react

Several BJP, union and Opposition leaders commented on the BJP victory, with most of them giving congratulatory messages to Modi. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Thursday said the people's mandate has to be accepted, saying: "We accept the people's mandate with humility. Congress has always worked to build a strong democracy. I thank the people of the state and Congress workers for peaceful participation in polling,".

Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah hailed the BJP's superb showing in the Lok Sabha polls as a "victory of India" and said that it is the people's mandate against the Opposition's propaganda and personal attacks as well as their total rejection of politics of dynasty, appeasement and casteism.

On the foreign front, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Modi on the victory of the BJP and expressed his readiness to work together to build up the full range of bilateral relations, a sentiment shared by the Nepali PM and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu.

(Published 23 May 2019, 03:14 IST)

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