Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to build a strong and inclusive nation, after winning a massive victory in the general election.
- Official data from the Election Commission shows Mr Modi’s alliance ahead in 324 seats
- There are 542 seats available and final results are due later this evening
- Mr Modi was under pressure when he began the race, but gained support after the campaign turned to national security
“Together we grow,” he said on Twitter. “Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!”
Mr Modi made the comments as counting showed he was 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 on Thursday showed Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead in 300 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 50 seats, figures showed.
There are 542 seats available and final results are due later on Thursday evening.
Indian stocks surged to historic highs as Mr Modi headed for victory. The broad Nifty index rose as much as 2 per cent, continuing a strong run after exit polls showing a Modi victory were released on Sunday.
A senior party leader said Mr Modi’s party had won the election shortly after counting started.
“Many congratulations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for delivering such a massive victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party,” Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter.
Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of the northern breadbasket state of Punjab and a regional leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, said, “We have lost the battle,” in an appearance on India Today TV news channel.
The election has been seen as a referendum on Mr Modi, whose economic reforms have had mixed results but whose popularity as a social underdog in India’s highly stratified society has endured.
Critics have said his Hindu-first platform risks exacerbating social tensions in the country of 1.3 billion people.
On the campaign trail, Mr Modi presented himself as a self-made man with the confidence to cut red tape and unleash India’s economic potential, and labelled Congress party president Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a political dynasty that lost power in 2014, as an out-of-touch elite.
‘A huge mandate for positive politics’
The NDA’s predicted margin of victory 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.
At the BJP’s headquarters in New Delhi, the mood was upbeat, with party workers cheering as TV channels reported the growing lead.
“It’s a huge mandate for positive politics and the policies of Narendra Modi,” said GVL Narasimha Rao, a BJP spokesman.
“It’s a huge win for India, we are humbled by the magnificence of this victory.”
Mohit Sharma, a 29-year-old who runs a bathroom fittings business, said India had never had a prime minister like Mr Modi.
“In the past, when leaders after they won elections, they sat in air-conditioned rooms and they never reached out to people, but Modi was never like that. He was always connected to the people through social media,” Mr Sharma said.
Congress leaders were sombre.
“We could have done better, the BJP seems to have done exceptionally well,” Congress spokesman Salman Soz told NDTV.
“Our weak point is we have been disorganised.”
Pakistan conducts missile test, but says it wants peace
Pakistan has signalled a willingness to open peace talks with India as Mr Modi appeared set to return to power in New Delhi after an election fought in the shadow of renewed confrontation between the nuclear-armed enemies.
But in a possible warning to India, Pakistan also announced that it has conducted a training launch of a Shaheen II, surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which it said is capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons at a range of up to 1,500 miles.
On Wednesday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi spoke briefly with his Indian counterpart at the sidelines of a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
“We never speak bitterly, we want to live like good neighbours and settle our outstanding issues through talks,” he said following the meeting.
The remark follows months of tension between the long-time rivals, which came close to war in February over the disputed region of Kashmir, which both sides have claimed since independence from Britain in 1947.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly offered to start talks with India to resolve the Kashmir issue, and officials have said that they hoped the process could start once the election is concluded.