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Narendra Modi claims victory in Indian elections, but no landslide: NPR

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shows victory signs as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate the party's victory in the country's general elections, in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shows victory signs as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate the party’s victory in the country’s general elections, in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

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Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared an election victory, with his coalition winning more than half of the parliamentary seats, with votes still being counted.

This puts Modi on track to win a third consecutive term – the country’s first prime minister to achieve such a result in more than 60 years.

This follows a six-week election, during which almost a billion people were eligible to vote.

The National Democratic Alliance “is going to form the government for the third time, we are grateful to the people,” Modi said in a speech at the headquarters of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in New Delhi. “This is a victory for the world’s greatest democracy.”

But the BJP’s celebrations appear relatively low-key.

Modi’s alliance had set itself an ambitious goal: to win 400 of the 543 parliamentary seats. As of 9 p.m. local time, it is leading with 288 seats, according to the Election Commission of India. India’s coalition of opposition parties won 233 seats, defying exit polls that predicted a much lower result.

By Tuesday morning, only a small group of supporters had gathered at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, with early trends showing the alliance would not achieve a landslide victory. As paeans to a cut by Prime Minister Modi were loudly sung in front of television cameras, the mood was relatively somber.

At the office of the opposition Congress party, supporters clapped and danced.

At the same time, India’s stock market plunged to a four-year low, Reuters reported, following news that the ruling alliance was winning by a smaller margin than expected, which could make more difficult the adoption of its legislation.

When the massive seven-phase election began in April, most analysts predicted a landslide in favor of Modi and his allies.

At the time, Modi inaugurated a Hindu temple built on top of a mosque razed by Hindu nationalists in Ayodhya; the Income Tax department froze the Congress party’s bank accounts citing unpaid dues; and India’s top investigative agencies have indicted several opposition leaders for corruption or money laundering.

While rejecting allegations of Modi’s authoritarianism, the BJP focused its campaign on economic growth, social programs and India’s rise on the world stage. The party failed to bring high inflation and unemployment under control during its decade in power, but several voters told NPR that Modi had overcome his government’s failures.

However, after the first round of voting in April, the ruling party’s rhetoric became increasingly polarized along religious lines.

In his campaign speeches, Modi accused the Congress party of conspiring to steal wealth from the Hindu majority and distribute it to Muslim minorities, whom he called “interlopers” and “those who have more children “. After several complaints filed by opposition parties, the electoral commission said it would hold party presidents accountable for the transgressions of its star campaigners.

The opposition INDIA alliance – a coalition of two dozen parties led by Congress – had framed the elections as a fight to save the country’s constitution. Despite the defection of a key partner before the elections, Congress and powerful regional parties helped the alliance win more seats than expected. A key victory was achieved in the flagship state of Uttar Pradesh, where the opposition coalition led with almost half the seats it lost to the BJP in 2019. This included Faizabad, where finds the Hindu temple controversial.

In a victory speech Tuesday evening, which began with a salute to a Hindu god, Modi reiterated his intention to make India a developed country in the next two decades. He added that he would work with all state governments, regardless of party.

Earlier in the evening, the opposition Congress party said the main opposition had won the seats despite the BJP’s “capture” of state institutions. Its leader Rahul Gandhi then pulled out a copy of the Indian Constitution and said the mandate was the “first step” in stopping Modi from trying to change it.

“The main message of these elections is that the era of coalition politics has returned and Modi’s model of one-party dominance will no longer work,” says Mumbai-based political analyst Professor Ashwini Kumar. “This also means that the BJP will have to cold-storage controversial ideological issues, like the Uniform Civil Code or simultaneous elections to the State Assembly and Parliament. »

Kapil Komireddi, author of Malevolent Republic: A Brief History of the New Indiawarns that the BJP could “poach” elected officials from other parties – “an art they have perfected”.

“If this happens, the prime minister could once again lead a majority government in Parliament,” he said. “The difference is that everyone within their own party knows that the magic has worn off.”

Diaa Hadid contributed reporting to this story.

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