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Modi Claims Victory Amidst Mixed Election Results

Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory for his alliance on Tuesday in India’s general election, despite his party’s lackluster performance and a stronger than expected challenge from the opposition. The opposition criticized Modi’s mixed economic record and polarizing politics.

Modi addressed a crowd at his party’s headquarters, asserting that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will form the government for a third consecutive term, highlighting the “immense faith” shown by Indian voters in his party and the coalition.

“Today’s victory is the victory of the world’s largest democracy,” he proclaimed.

For the first time since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, it seemed unlikely they would secure a majority on their own. Modi will likely need the support of coalition partners for his third five-year term in the world’s largest democratic exercise.

This represents a significant setback for the 73-year-old leader, who had anticipated a landslide victory. Despite this, many of the Hindu nationalist policies he has instituted over the past decade remain entrenched.

The opposition, led by the Congress party, claimed a moral and political victory, with Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge stating, “This is the public’s victory and a win for democracy.”

In his 10 years in power, Modi has transformed India’s political landscape, bringing Hindu nationalism into the mainstream while leaving the country deeply divided. His supporters view him as a strong, self-made leader who has elevated India’s global standing, while critics argue his Hindu-first politics have fostered intolerance and exacerbated economic inequality.

As votes were counted, partial tallies from India’s Election Commission showed the BJP leading in 114 constituencies and winning 126 of 543 parliamentary seats. Congress led in 45 constituencies and won 54. A total of 272 seats are needed for a majority. In 2019, the BJP won 303 seats, following 282 in 2014 when Modi first took power.

The BJP-led NDA led in 147 constituencies and won 139, according to the partial count. The Congress party, part of the INDIA alliance, led in 131 constituencies and had won 99.

Exit polls had projected the NDA to win more than 350 seats. However, Indian markets reacted negatively to the uncertainty, with the NIFTY 50 and BSE Sensex both dropping by over 5% on Tuesday.

Payal, a resident of Lucknow, highlighted economic issues as a significant concern: “People are suffering, there are no jobs, people are in such a state that their kids are compelled to make and sell tea on the roadside. This is a big deal for us. If we don’t wake up now, when will we?”

If Modi secures a third term, he would become the second Indian leader to do so after Jawaharlal Nehru. However, if forced to form a coalition, the BJP would likely be heavily dependent on the goodwill of its allies, making them critical players in policymaking and government formation.

Before Modi, India had coalition governments for 30 years, with the BJP consistently holding a majority while governing in coalition.

As votes were counted in extreme heat, large quantities of water and outdoor air coolers were provided for those awaiting results. At BJP headquarters in New Delhi, supporters celebrated with drums and Hindu rituals, while Congress supporters chanted slogans praising Rahul Gandhi.

Over the past decade, Modi’s popularity has outstripped his party’s, turning parliamentary elections into presidential-style campaigns reliant on his enduring brand. Critics argue that democracy is faltering under his government, which has been accused of using strong-arm tactics against political opponents and the media. The government denies these accusations.

Economic discontent has simmered under Modi. While stock markets have reached record highs, youth unemployment has soared, with only a small portion of Indians benefiting from economic growth.

The BJP’s campaign initially focused on “Modi’s guarantees,” highlighting economic achievements. However, as the campaign progressed, Modi resorted to polarizing rhetoric targeting Muslims, a tactic aimed at energizing his core Hindu voter base.

The opposition INDIA alliance campaigned on issues of joblessness, inflation, and inequality but faced internal ideological differences and defections. They also claimed unfair targeting by federal agencies, accusations the government denies.

Mangesh Mahadeshwar from Mumbai was among those surprised by the election results: “Yesterday we thought that the BJP would get more than 400 seats. Today it seems like that won’t happen – people haven’t supported the BJP so much this time.”

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