Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to a huge election victory on Thursday, on course to increase his majority and give his party the mandate to pursue business-friendly policies that put Hindus first and take a hard line on national security.
Official data from India’s Election Commission showed Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead in 298 of the 542 seats available, up from the 282 it won in 2014 and more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament.
That would give it the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984. The main opposition Congress Party was ahead in 52 seats, figures showed. Amarinder Singh, a senior Congress leader, said that party had “lost the battle” for power.
India’s allies, including Sri Lanka and Israel, congratulated Modi.
Members of his party now want him to take a harder line on national security,.
The NDA’s predicted margin of victory, at 348 seats to 85 for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, according to TV channel NDTV, is much 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.
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.