“India wins yet again,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday as the electoral trends made it clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party was set for a second term in office.

The Election Commission of India’s data indicated that the BJP would surpass its 2014 tally of 282 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. As of 9 am on Friday, the BJP had won 294 seats and was leading in 9. The Congress, on the other hand, had won 52 constituencies. Key BJP candidates such as Amit Shah, Pragya Singh Thakur, Giriraj Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajnath Singh, Gautam Gambhir recorded big wins. In the five key Hindi-speaking states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Bihar, the BJP and its allies secured massive victories.

“This is not Modi’s victory,” the prime minister said in his victory speech at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. “This is victory of honest people’s hope, this is a victory of youths who have walked on the path of 21st century with dreams.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre) and other senior BJP leaders celebrate the election victory at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday. (Image credit: PTI)

Modi said the verdict reflected the satisfaction of the middle class with the NDA’s governance. “This is not the victory of Modi but the victory of citizens desperate for honesty in governance,” he added.

Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Sushma Swaraj, Suresh Prabhu and Ram Vilas Paswan credited Modi for the electoral triumph. Shah, the BJP president, said the people’s mandate was against the Opposition’s propaganda and personal attacks on Modi. It also indicated a total rejection of the politics of dynasty, appeasement and casteism, he claimed. “This grand victory is a triumph of people’s confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development work and strong leadership.”

Several international leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena congratulated Modi.

Meanwhile, the prime minister dropped the prefix “chowkidar”, or watchman, from his Twitter profile. Modi said that though the word will no longer be a part of his Twitter handle, it will remain “an integral part” of him.

BJP President Amit Shah arriving at the party headquarters in New Delhi to celebrate the election victory. (Image credit: PTI)

‘Chowkidar chor hai’, NYAY fail to help Congress

The Congress once again stared at the possibility of not winning enough votest to claim the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House. The numbers put out by the Election Commission showed that the party had managed to win only a few seats more than its 2014 tally of 44. The biggest shock was Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s defeat in Amethi, a traditional bastion of his family in Uttar Pradesh, to Union minister Smriti Irani. The Congress chief, however, managed to win from Wayanad in Kerala.

“I take 100% responsibility for this defeat,” Gandhi said while congratulating Modi and the BJP for their victory. The Congress president said he respected the verdict, and hoped Modi would look after the country’s interests. “Today is not the day for me to go into the details of this mandate,” Gandhi added. “Today is the day that a new prime minister has been elected and today is the day to wish him all the best and, hopefully, he will look after the interests of this country.”

In several states, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, the Congress bagged zero seats. In Uttar Pradesh, only UPA chief Sonia Gandhi managed to win her seat in Rae Bareli.

Senior party leader Anand Sharma called for serious introspection within the party. “It is time to collectively introspect and reflect on what went wrong and mistakes made that led to this humiliating defeat,” PTI quoted the former Union minister as saying. “We remain committed to the Congress ideology and values and reflect on how to rejuvenate the party for the larger interest of the Indian democracy, with all honesty.”

Huge blow for regional parties

Several regional Opposition leaders who, over the past year, attempted to stitch together an anti-BJP coalition suffered defeats. The Telugu Desam Party of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who was at the forefront of this much-touted federal front, lost the Assembly elections to the YSR Congress led by Jaganmohan Reddy. The YSR Congress also won all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Naidu, who walked out of National Democratic Alliance last year, met a number of Opposition leaders over the past week, trying to get them on board for the non-BJP alliance.

“Some people did not like the exit polls, which came out two days ago...everyone met everyone,” Amit Shah told BJP workers in Delhi on Thursday. “They thought these exit polls are wrong and we can brainwash the people. But today, the BJP has won.”

Mocking Naidu, Shah added: “I would say to all these dynastic parties – and especially to Chandrababu Naidu – that had you have worked so hard for the polls, you should have been able to open your account.”

The BJP also made inroads in West Bengal, managing to win 13 seats and lead in five. The Trinamool Congress won 15 seats and was leading in seven at 12.30 am. The Congress was leading in just two seats, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) registered its worst electoral performance in over six decades as it failed to win even one constituency.

In Uttar Pradesh, the alliance of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which was expected to pose a tough challenge to the BJP, was trailing in most of the seats. At 12.30 am, the Bahujan Samaj Party had won only nine seats and was leading in one, while the Samajwadi Party was leading in one and had won only four seats. The BJP was leading in nine seats and had secured victories in 53 constituencies. The saffron party’s ally Apna Dal bagged two seats. The state sends the most number of parliamentarians – 80 – to the Lok Sabha.

As the BJP recorded its historic win, BSP chief Mayawati accused it of hijacking the elections by tampering with electronic voting machines. “These results raise doubts not just in the minds of political parties but also in the minds of the common people,” Mayawati said, according to News18. “If they have nothing to hide, why don’t they get polls conducted through ballot paper instead of EVMs? BJP and company have hijacked the elections with the help of EVMs, people now don’t have faith in EVMs. Neither the BJP nor the Election Commission is ready to conduct elections with ballot paper, this again raises a doubt.”

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