India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) scored a landslide election win on Thursday, giving Prime Minister Narendra Modi another five years at the helm of the world’s second most populous nation.
Official data from the Election Commission showed Modi’s Hindu-nationalist BJP ahead in 298 of the 542 seats available, up from the 282 it won in 2014 and more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the Lok Sabha, Reuters reports.
That would give it the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984. The main opposition Congress Party was ahead in 52 seats, figures showed.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, also a senior BJP leader, said on Twitter that the BJP had won a “massive victory”, while Amarinder Singh, a senior Congress leader, said that party had “lost the battle” for power.
Foreign leaders congratulated Modi, who is due to meet party workers at 1730 local time on Thursday.
The mood was upbeat at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, with party workers setting off firecrackers and cheering as TV channels reported the margin of victory.
“It’s a huge mandate for positive politics and the policies of Narendra Modi,” said GVL Narasimha Rao, a BJP spokesman. “It’s a huge win for India. We are humbled by the magnificence of this victory.”
Congress leaders were somber.
“It’s obviously not in our favor at all,” said Salman Soz, a Congress spokesman. “We need to wait for the full results but right now it doesn’t look good.”
The NDA’s predicted margin of victory, at 348 seats to 85 for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, according to TV channel projections, is much larger than what surveys had indicated in the run-up to the vote.
Final results are due by Thursday evening.
Modi was under pressure when he began campaigning, losing three state elections in December amid rising anger over farm prices and unemployment.
However, campaigning shifted towards India’s relationship with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan after a suicide car bomb killed 40 Indian police in the contested Kashmir region in February, to the benefit of the right-wing BJP, analysts said.
Members of his party now want him to take a harder line on national security, as well as build a controversial temple on the site of a mosque that was demolished by a Hindu mob in Ayodhya in 1992.
The BJP capitalized on the star power of Modi, a frenetic campaigner, as well as superior financial resources.
The poor showing from Congress, which has failed to make inroads against Modi despite widespread voter dissatisfaction over economic conditions, will lead to questions over the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty whose father, grandmother and great grandfather all served as prime minister.
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