India elections 2024: Narendra Modi set to return for record third term, exit polls say

Results will be announced on June 4

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Indian exit polls were forecasting a landslide victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the world’s largest elections concluded on Saturday following an electrifying poll campaign that lasted 44 days.

India began electing 543 members of the Lok Sabha – the lower house of Parliament – on April 19, with 57 seats holding votes on Saturday in the seventh and final round of the staggered elections.

The results are expected on June 4, but a series of exit polls by private news broadcasters predicted a thumping majority to the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Mr Modi.

In opposition is the INDIA bloc, an alliance of 26 regional and national parties led by its main partner, the Indian National Congress (INC).

Seven exit polls predicted a range of 342 and 383 seats for the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which BJP is a member, while the INDIA bloc could win between 118 and 182 seats.

News channel ABP-C Voter predicted NDA could achieve between 353 to 383 seats, while another broadcaster, News Nation, gave the ruling alliance between 342 to 378 seats.

A political party or an alliance of parties needs 272 seats to form a government.

Exit polls are banned in India until the voting is concluded and many times such polls have failed to predict the results.

Mr Modi has shown confidence that his party will sweep the polls, even claiming that BJP will cross 400 seats and form a government for a record third term.

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is the only leader to have won three consecutive terms.

The NDA had won 353 seats in 2019, out of which 303 seats were won by the BJP. The Congress had won 52 seats.

The exit polls predicted clean sweeps for the BJP in the Hindi-heartland states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh. It has faced some setbacks in the stronghold states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Haryana, exit polls said.

But polls predicted a strong showing by the Hindu nationalist party in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where Mr Modi’s party has struggled to garner support and making gains in eastern West Bengal and Odisha states.

The opposition bloc has largely retained its strongholds and made some inroads in Haryana and Rajasthan.

However, it has failed to make a mark in the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, where exit polls are predicting the BJP to win between 67 to 74 seats out of 80.

Mr Modi on Saturday thanked voters for their active participation in the elections.

“India has voted! A heartfelt thank you to all those who exercised their franchise. Their active participation is the cornerstone of our democracy,” he wrote on X, shortly after polling concluded on Saturday.

Several political commentators have predicted a third term for Mr Modi because of his Hindu strongman image and popularity among the masses.

However, disenchantment among voters over widespread unemployment and growing social and religious divisions were believed to be a bane for the ruling party.

Some strategists have predicted BJP to emerge as the single largest party, but would struggle to form a government on its own.

They blame a drop in Mr Modi's popularity, even claiming that his hardcore voter base – right-wing Hindus – is exasperated with the leader’s anti-Muslim rhetoric during the election campaign.

Prashant Kishor, a prominent political strategist who worked with the BJP in 2014 when Mr Modi first came to power, has predicted that the party will win less than 300 seats.

Yogendra Yadav, another psephologist-turned-politician instrumental in the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party in the capital New Delhi, has predicted that the party may not even win 270 seats.

The number of constituencies Mr Modi’s party wins is crucial for the leader for his reputation and relevance.

He recently said that he was “not born but was sent by God to work for humanity”.

“At the very least the BJP will be the single largest party, whether they’ll win 230 seats or above 300. I do not think Congress can beat it. BJP will get the first shot at forming the government, if not, they will form a government by reaching out to allies,” Aarti Jerath, a Delhi-based political analyst said, told The National.

“But if the BJP gets somewhere in the range of 230-250 seats, it will be a moral defeat for the BJP because it will get fewer seats from the last time. I don’t see Mr Modi as a leader accepting a moral defeat,” she said.

Updated: June 01, 2024, 6:20 PM