BJP-led alliance clears the way for Narendra Modi's second term

BJP won 303 parliament seats on its own, nearly six times as many as the main opposition Congress party

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) President Amit Shah feeds sweets to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) gesture during a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) meeting at the central hall of the parliament, in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.  Modi has been formally elected as leader of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) during the meeting. / AFP / PRAKASH SINGH
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Newly elected members of parliament from India's ruling alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party have unanimously elected Narendra Modi as their leader on Saturday, paving the way for his second five-year term as prime minister after a resounding victory in national elections.

BJP president Amit Shah proposed Mr Modi's name as leader at a meeting of alliance MPs in New Delhi.

The Election Commission said the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, after the official vote count finished Friday. The party defied pre-election forecasts to improve on the 282 seats it won in 2014.

Mr Modi is expected to be sworn in for his second term on Thursday.

Critics accuse Mr Modi and his party of adopting divisive policies and using a Hindu-first strategy. But Mr Modi said after Saturday's vote that "this election has become a movement of social unity".

"It is generally said that the election divides, creates distances, makes walls. But the 2019 elections have worked to break the walls," he told his alliance MPs.

The main opposition party, the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, won 52 seats, only eight more than its worst ever electoral performance five years ago.

Mr Gandhi offered to step down as party president at a meeting of Congress leaders in New Delhi on Saturday but was asked to remain, according to the party's executive committee.

The Congress Working Committee "unanimously and with one voice rejected the same and requested the Congress president for his leadership and guidance in these challenging times", it said.

"The CWC recommends a thorough introspection and requested the Congress President for a complete overhaul and a detailed restructuring at every level of the party," the committee said.

"In a democracy wins and losses keep happening but providing leadership is a different matter. He gave leadership," senior Congress member Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters after the meeting.

In the run-up to the election, Mr Gandhi sought to challenge Mr Modi directly but critics said the Congress campaign was weakened by a lack of focus and botched communications, as well as being out-spent by the BJP.

Building political capital from escalating tensions with arch-rival Pakistan ahead of the polls, the BJP concentrated on Mr Modi's national security record, effectively countering the opposition's criticism of the government's work on creating jobs and alleviating farmers' woes.