Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to a massive triumph in the general elections 2019 on Thursday, stunning opponents and upsetting predictions of a fractured mandate, giving his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) an unassailable lead of 341 seats — well above the halfway mark in Lok Sabha — and on course to increase his majority in 2014.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading in 300 seats.
The huge victory underscored the widespread popularity of Modi, under whose vigorous campaigning, the BJP was able to shrug off the effects of widespread disquiet over farm distress and a lack of jobs for growing numbers of young people.
The victory gives Modi the mandate to pursue business-friendly policies and take a harder line on national security, according to experts.
"For global investors, political stability and continuity is an important factor while taking a view on investing in any country," said R Sivakumar, head of fixed income at Axis Mutual Fund in Mumbai. "This will keep India on the radar of global equity investors."
This is the first time since 1984 that a party is being returned to power with a majority of its own.
Indian stocks surged to historic highs as Modi headed for victory. The broad Nifty index rose as much as 2 percent, continuing a strong run after exit polls showing a Modi victory were released on Sunday.
The rupee headed towards 69.20 to the dollar, up from the 69.67 close on Wednesday, while the yield on the 10-year bond dropped 3 bps to 7.23 percent.
The Congress party, which has been in power for all but 23 of the last 72 years, appeared to be heading for another lower tally, after its dismal showing in 2014, leading in 50 seats. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that it heads is leading in 90 seats, according to Election Commission data.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, also a senior BJP leader, said on Twitter the BJP had won a "massive victory", while Amarinder Singh, the Congress leader and Punjab chief minister, said that party had "lost the battle" for power.
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 sombre.
"It's obviously not in our favour at all," said Salman Soz, a Congress spokesman. "We need to wait for the full results but right now it doesn't look good."
Exit polls had predicted an outright majority for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the seven-phase election that ended on Sunday. Six of the seven exit polls conducted have predicted that the NDA would comfortably surpass the majority mark of 272 seats in the lower house of parliament.
The trends matched the News18-Ipsos exit poll that predicted a sweeping victory for NDA with a score of over 330 seats, and BJP returning to power with a majority of its own.
India's parliament has a total of 545 seats, out of which the BJP won 282 in the previous general election in 2014 to secure a single-party majority for the first time in around three decades. To rule a party needs the support of 272 MPs.
The NDA leads mirrored the national popularity of Modi with BJP leading in constituencies ranging from Kashmir to Kanyakumari while the famed local alliances stitched up by regional parties came unstuck.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party combine was expected to give BJP a run for its money, the saffron brigade was leading in 55 seats out of the total 80. The Mahagadbandhan had 24 leads while Congress was ahead in only 2 seats, its national president Rahul Gandhi struggling to retain the family borough of Amethi.
Strong Showing In Several States
The BJP performed strongly in several states where it has previously struggled, including in West Bengal, where it targeted the Trinamool Congress, a powerful regional party in campaigning that often turned violent.
The BJP was leading in 17 of 42 seats in the state, which sends the third largest number of lawmakers to parliament, significantly better than the two it won in 2014, Election Commission data showed.
"The party is heading for a stunning victory in West Bengal," said Jayprakash Majumdar, a BJP vice-president in the state.
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 police personnel in Kashmir in February, to the benefit of the BJP, analysts said. Members of the BJP now want Modi 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 mob in Ayodhya in 1992.
"I want Modi to finish terrorism from Kashmir (and) make Pakistan bite the dust again and again," Shekhar Chahal, a BJP worker from New Delhi said on Thursday. "I am confident that Modi will also make the temple in Ayodhya."
Long-time foe Pakistan has signalled a willingness to open peace talks with India, but in a possible warning, it announced that it has conducted a training launch of a surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which it said is capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons at a range of up to 1,500 miles.
The BJP has also capitalised on the star power of Modi, a frenetic campaigner, as well as superior financial resources. It outspent Congress by six times on Facebook and Google advertising, data showed, and by as much as 20 times overall, sources told Reuters this month.
The poor showing from Congress, which has failed to make inroads against Modi despite widespread voter dissatisfaction, 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.
Gandhi trailed BJP candidate Smriti Irani in the Amethi constituency that his family has held almost continuously for the last four decades.
"The Congress party has not been able to improve at all," said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. "One big story is the emerging challenge for the Congress to remain a national alternative to the BJP. That now is under question."
Voter turnout in the seven rounds of elections was roughly 67.1 percent, the Election Commission said, compared with the 58 percent in the last general elections in 2014.Follow our Lok Sabha Elections 2019 live coverage