Early India vote count shows Modi alliance in majority but short of landslide

Modi’s alliance has the majority in the first vote count in India, but the opposition also wins

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alliance quickly won a majority in early vote counting in Tuesday’s general election, television channels reported, but the numbers fell far short of the landslide victory predicted in post-election polls.

The early up-and-down trends spooked the markets and stock prices fell sharply. The blue-chip Nifty 50 index lost 4.4 percent and the S&P BSE Sensex was down 4.2 percent at 06:00 GMT.

The rupee also fell sharply against the dollar and benchmark bond yields rose.

Markets soared on Monday after June 1 polls predicted a clear victory for Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with their National Democratic Alliance (NDA) expected to win a two-thirds majority or more.

At 06:00 GMT, television channels showed that the NDA was ahead in the first count in nearly 300 of the 543 parliamentary seats, of which 272 are a simple majority. The opposition INDIA Alliance, led by Rahul Gandhi’s centrist Congress party, was ahead in over 220 seats, more than expected.

Television channels showed the BJP winning nearly 250 of the seats where the NDA was leading, narrowly securing a sole majority, compared to the 303 seats it won in 2019.

A third Modi term with a narrow majority for the BJP – or reliance on NDA allies for a majority – could lead to uncertainty in governance, as Modi has ruled the government with great authority for the past decade.

However, politicians and analysts said it was too early to get a concrete picture of the election developments as the majority of votes had not yet been counted.

“It is a fair assessment that 400 is definitely a long way off at the moment,” BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli told India Today television, referring to some forecasts that gave the NDA 400 seats.

“But we have to wait until we have a final picture on the seats because the post-election polls point to an overwhelming victory, (and) the current counting trend does not seem to fit that,” he said.

“The BJP-NDA will form the government, this trend was clear from the beginning,” he added.

After the polls ended on June 1, post-election polls were broadcast on television that predicted a clear victory for Modi. But in India, post-election polls have often predicted incorrect results. Nearly a billion people were registered to vote, of whom 642 million turned out to vote.

However, if Modi’s victory is confirmed, even by a narrow majority, his BJP will have triumphed in a vicious election campaign in which the parties accused each other of religious bias and of posing a threat to sections of the population.

SOME PANIC ON THE MARKETS

Investors had welcomed the prospect of Modi’s second term in office, hoping for more years of strong economic growth and business-friendly reforms. In addition, the expected two-thirds majority in parliament would enable major changes to the constitution.

“The sharp decline in Nifty is because the results, although still in an early trend, paint a very different picture from the post-election polls,” said Siddhartha Khemka, head of retail research at Motilal Oswal Financial Services in Mumbai.

“This has led to panic and concern. Frankly, these trends are still early trends. The market does not want a parliament without a clear majority or a coalition government where there are a lot of delays in decision-making,” he said.

The election, which began on April 19 and lasted seven weeks and was held in scorching summer heat, with temperatures in some areas reaching nearly 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

More than 66 percent of registered voters turned out to vote, just one percentage point less than in the last election in 2019. This allayed pre-election fears that voters might shun a campaign that was seen as a foregone conclusion in Modi’s favor.

Modi, 73, who came to power in 2014 on promises of growth and change, is aiming to become only the second prime minister after India’s independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru to win three consecutive terms in office.

At the start of his campaign, he showcased his achievements so far in office, including economic growth, social policies, national pride, Hindu nationalism and his personal commitment to fulfilling promises, which he called “Modi’s guarantee”.

However, after low voter turnout in the first phase, he changed course and accused the opposition, particularly the Congress party, which leads an alliance of two dozen groups, of favoring India’s 200 million Muslims – a shift that analysts say is making the election campaign crude and divisive.

They said the policy shift may have been aimed at mobilising the Hindu nationalist base of Modi’s BJP and getting them to vote. Modi has pushed back against criticism that he is stoking divisions between Hindus and Muslims to win votes, saying he blames only the opposition campaign.

The opposition Alliance INDIA denied that it favored Muslims in the Hindu-majority country and said Modi would destroy the Constitution if he returned to power and end positive discrimination against the so-called lower castes. The BJP rejects this.

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