International News

Modi takes commanding lead as India counts votes

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday claimed victory in the country’s elections, promising an “inclusive” future after his Hindu nationalist party appeared headed for a landslide win.
According to Election Commission data based on votes counted so far, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on course to win around 300 of 543 elected seats in India’s lower house, surpassing its 2014 victory and crushing the opposition Congress party´s hopes of a comeback.
“Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!,” Modi tweeted after votes counted so far pointed to a BJP landslide.
 According to Indian TV channel NDTV, the BJP led alliance is ahead with 343 seats, with the alliance led by Congress on 93 seats. The non-aligned parties currently have 106 seats.
The BJP has been accused by critics of discriminating against India’s religious minorities, in particular, its 170 million-strong Muslim population. Under Modi, lynchings of Muslims and low-caste Dalits for eating beef and slaughtering and trading in cattle have risen.
Modi ally and BJP party boss Amit Shah tweeted that the election results, which are yet to be finalised, were a victory “for all of India”.
“This result is India’s verdict against the propaganda, lies, personal attacks and baseless politics of the opposition,” he added.
“Today’s mandate also shows that people of India have entirely uprooted casteism, nepotism and appeasement to choose nationalism and development.”
The BJP led coalition’s predicted margin of victory is larger than surveys indicated in the run-up to the vote when most polls showed it would be the largest alliance but would fall short of an overall majority.
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 Indian police in the occupied Kashmir region in February, to the benefit of the right-wing BJP, analysts said.
“National security became the discussion,” said Harsh Pant, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi. “It allowed the BJP to shirk some issues where it was weak.”
The BJP has also capitalized 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 earlier this month.
“The longer election certainly helps Modi: he loves contact with the people,” Pant said. “The BJP’s electoral machinery is also much more effective on the ground.”