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Modi expected to retain power, but early tallies in India suggest it won’t be the landslide he hoped for

NEW DELHI (AP) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s coalition won a majority of seats in India’s general election on Tuesday, partial figures showed, but faced a bigger-than-expected challenge from the opposition after having rejected the mixed and polarizing economic record of the leader. policy.

His Hindu nationalist party appeared unlikely to secure a majority on its own, according to an ongoing count, despite pre-election hopes of a landslide victory – but Modi was still expected to be elected to a third five-year term at the most large part of the world. democratic exercise.

If this trend continues, it would be a major blow for the 73-year-old leader, who has never been in a position where he has had to rely on his coalition partners to govern.

The counting of more than 640 million votes cast over six weeks was expected to take all day, and the initial numbers could change.

During his ten years in power, Modi transformed India’s political landscape, bringing Hindu nationalism, once a fringe ideology in India, into the mainstream while leaving the country deeply divided.

His supporters see him as a strong, self-made leader who improved India’s position in the world. His critics and opponents say his Hindu policies have bred intolerance and that the economy, the fifth largest in the world and one of the most dynamic, has become more unequal.

Ten hours after the count, partial tallies reported by the Election Commission of India showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party leading in 196 constituencies and had won 45 of 543 parliamentary seats, including one uncontested. The main opposition Congress party was leading in 83 constituencies and won 15 of them.

In total, 272 seats are needed to obtain a majority. In 2019, the BJP won 303 seats, up from 282 in 2014, when Modi came to power.

Modi’s party is part of the National Democratic Alliance, whose members led in 236 constituencies and won 50, according to the partial count. The Congress party is part of the INDIA alliance, which led in 211 constituencies and won 19 of them.

The Electoral Commission does not publish data on the percentage of votes counted.

Exit polls over the weekend predicted the NDA would win more than 350 seats. Indian markets, which had hit an all-time high on Monday, closed sharply lower on Tuesday, with benchmark stock indices – the NIFTY 50 and the BSE Sensex – both down more than 5%.

For Payal, a resident of the northern city of Lucknow who uses only one name, the election was about the economy and the large number of people living in poverty in India.

“People are suffering, there is no work, they are in such a state that their children are forced to prepare and sell tea on the roadside,” Payal said. “It’s a big deal for us. If we don’t wake up now, when will we?

If Modi wins, it would be only the second time an Indian leader has retained power for a third term after Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister.

But if his BJP is forced into a coalition, the party would likely be “heavily dependent on the goodwill of its allies, making them key players from whom they can be expected to extract their meat, both in terms of policymaking and policy.” government formation,” said Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“It would really be, you know, uncharted territory, both for Indians and for the Prime Minister,” he added.

Before Modi came to power, India had coalition governments for 30 years. His BJP has always had a self-governing majority while governing in a coalition.

Extreme heat hit India as voters went to the polls. Even though temperatures were a bit lower Tuesday, election officials and political parties still hauled in large quantities of water and set up outdoor air coolers for people waiting for results.

Outside the BJP party headquarters in New Delhi, supporters sounded drums and bells as counting was underway. Previously, party members performed a Hindu ritual.

Meanwhile, supporters at the Congress party headquarters appeared upbeat and chanted slogans praising Rahul Gandhi, the face of the party’s campaign.

At a news conference, Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge said the alliance’s strong showing was a “victory for democracy” and a “moral and political loss” for Modi.

Gandhi added that these figures were a message from the people: “The poorest people of this country have defended the constitution of India. »

In ten years in power, Modi’s popularity has surpassed that of his party and transformed a parliamentary election into a campaign that increasingly resembles a presidential-style campaign. The result is that the BJP is increasingly relying on Modi’s enduring brand to stay in power, with local politicians taking a back seat even in national elections.

“Modi was not only the main campaigner, but the only candidate in this election,” said public policy expert Yamini Aiyar.

Modi’s critics say the country’s democracy is faltering under his government, which has increasingly resorted to heavy-handed tactics to subdue political opponents, stifle independent media and suppress dissent. The government has rejected these accusations and says democracy is flourishing.

And economic discontent was brewing under Modi. As stock markets hit record highs and millionaires multiply, youth unemployment has soared, with only a small portion of Indians benefiting from the boom.

As elections opened in mid-April, a confident BJP initially focused its campaign on “Modi guarantees,” highlighting the economic and social achievements that its party said had reduced poverty. With him at the helm, “India will become a developed nation by 2047,” Modi repeated at rally after rally.

But the campaign has become increasingly bitter, as Modi has stepped up his polarizing rhetoric targeting Muslims, who make up 14% of the population, a tactic that appears to energize his core Hindu-majority electorate.

The opposition INDIA alliance has attacked Modi for his Hindu nationalist policies and campaigned on the issues of unemployment, inflation and inequality.

But the broad alliance of more than a dozen political parties has been plagued by ideological differences and defections, raising questions about its effectiveness. At the same time, the alliance also claimed it had been unfairly targeted, pointing to a series of raids, arrests and corruption investigations against their leaders by federal agencies that they say are politically motivated. The government denied this.

In the financial capital of Mumbai, Mangesh Mahadeshwar was one of many surprised by the way the elections went.

“Yesterday we thought the BJP would get more than 400 seats,” said the 52-year-old who was monitoring the results at the restaurant where he works. “Today it looks like that’s not going to happen – people didn’t support the BJP as much this time.”

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Associated Press journalists David Rising in New Delhi and Rafiq Maqbool in Mumbai, India, contributed to this story.

News Source : www.yahoo.com
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