Narendra Modi claims victory for his coalition in India election – but party likely short of majority

World

Early counting in India’s election suggests the party of Narendra Modi may get fewer votes than expected.

A total of 272 seats are needed for a majority in the country’s lower house of parliament – but his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is ahead only in 242 seats so far.

However, if it is unable to achieve an outright majority, the BJP is expected to form a coalition government – which could ensure Mr Modi secures a third consecutive term as prime minister.

Exit polls had suggested the popular but controversial Mr Modi would win an overwhelming majority.

In previous elections, in 2014 and 2019, his party achieved landslide victories.

The BJP is part of a broader National Democratic Alliance of parties – which are ahead in a total of 283 constituencies.

If Mr Modi does end up leading a coalition government, the 73-year-old would become only the second prime minister – after India‘s independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru – to win three consecutive terms.

The counting of 642 million votes in the world’s largest election began early today – with around half tallied so far.

‘Back to the days of bargaining’

The Hindu nationalist BJP and its allies have faced a broad opposition alliance led by the Congress party and its main campaign leader, Rahul Gandhi.

The anti-Modi alliance is ahead in 232 constituencies so far, according to the early counting.

Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader of India's main opposition Congress party, waves as he arrives at the party headquarters in New Delhi, India, June 4, 2024. REUTERS/Priyanshu Singh TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Image:
Senior opposition figure Rahul Gandhi waves to supporters in New Delhi on Tuesday. Pic: Reuters

Indian political commentator Arati R Jerath said: “We’ll have to see who is going to lead this government because we are now going back to the days of bargaining which we haven’t seen in the last 10 years, because Modi was so dominant.

“Now, Modi is not known as a consensual figure. So, it’ll be very interesting to see how he manages the pulls and pressures of a coalition government.”

Around 970 million people – more than 10% of the world’s population – were eligible to vote after polls opened in mid-April, with an average turnout of around 66% across the seven phases, according to official figures.

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Just how many people voted in India’s election?

During his 10 years in power, Mr Modi has transformed India’s political landscape, his popularity outstripping that of his party.

However, a decade of his leadership has also left the country deeply divided – religiously and economically.

‘Hybrid regime’

Mr Modi’s opponents and critics say his Hindu-first politics have bred intolerance, hate speech and brazen attacks against the country’s minorities – raising concerns over the treatment of Muslims, Christians and other religious groups.

Read more: Narendra Modi: A history-making leader with god-like status – and fierce critics

India’s economy is among the fastest-growing in the world and has helped the country emerge as a global power and a counterweight to China.

But it has become unequal, with only a small portion of Indians benefitting from the economic boom and youth unemployment soaring.


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The country’s democratic values under Mr Modi’s leadership have also come under scrutiny.

Under Mr Modi, the media – once viewed as vibrant and largely independent – has become more pliant and critical voices muzzled.

Read more:
Modi’s party notably absent in Kashmir

Minority communities anxious about possible Modi win
Modi reported to Electoral Commission

Many watchdogs have now categorised India as a “hybrid regime” that is neither a full democracy nor a full autocracy.

Mr Modi’s government has repeatedly denied and dismissed accusations of discrimination, saying its policies aim for the welfare of all communities without bias and that it enforces the law equally.

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