New Delhi — Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set to win a second term in office as his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) racked up a convincing majority of the votes being counted across India on Thursday. The tallying of votes in the world’s biggest democracy started Thursday, and the results hours later showed the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) winning at least 350 seats in parliament of the 542 that were up for grabs. The BJP alone was poised to take about 290 seats.
A coalition of parties needs just 272 seats in the lower house of parliament, called the Lok Sabha (People’s House) to form the new government and nominate the prime minister — making it all but certain that Modi would find himself in that seat for another five years.
“Together we will build a strong and inclusive India,” Modi proclaimed on Twitter as the results became clear. “India wins yet again!”
Modi’s BJP broke its own record for an election performance this year, bettering the results from the last general elections in 2014, in which it won 282 seat. Their alliances added another 54 seats, taking the total NDA tally to 336. That, five years ago, was the best tally by any one party in three decades.
BJP’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), had won just 54 seats, 10 better than the last election. But their performance in 2014 – winning 44 seats – was their worst ever. The party that has governed India for 49 of its 72 years of independence will now be forced to take a hard look at its campaign strategy.
The results were not yet official as counting continued, but the final numbers were not expected to deviate significantly from the preliminary returns.
Modi was to meet his cabinet colleagues and party leaders Thursday evening in New Delhi, and they were expected to discuss the formation of a new government. That process will likely take a few days as they jump through the hoops of officially nominating the prime minister and the council of ministers. It will all culminate in an oath-taking ceremony, expected before the end of May.
How it happened
During a bitter election campaign, the opposition targeted Modi on economic issues, like failure to create jobs when the unemployment rate is at its highest in four decades, a farm sector crisis, and an alleged hate campaign against minority Muslims. But none of those issues seemed to resonated with voters.
Modi’s campaign focused sharply on nationalism and security, especially after recent heightened tensions with neighbor Pakistan.
The two nuclear-armed Asian neighbors managed to step back from the brink of war after a major terror attack in Indian Kashmir, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants and responded to with airstrikes inside Pakistan.
Modi has been credited with strengthening India’s foreign policy, and he often takes credit for “isolating Pakistan” on the world stage.
With his handling of the Pakistan stand-off early this year, he carried the image of a strong leader into the election, and it paid off.
That could mean the world will see more strained ties between India and Pakistan during the next five years.