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Modi's alliance to win big in India election, exit polls project

Published 05/31/2024, 10:34 PM
Updated 06/03/2024, 06:58 AM
© Reuters. A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man casts his vote inside a polling station during the seventh and last phase of India's general election in Varanasi, India, June 1, 2024. REUTERS/Priyanshu Singh

(This June 1 story has been corrected to say 295 seats, not 259, in paragraph 13)

By YP Rajesh, Sakshi Dayal and Tanvi Mehta

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led alliance is projected to win a big majority in the general election that concluded on Saturday, TV exit polls said, suggesting it would do better than expected by most analysts.

Most exit polls projected the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) could win a two-thirds majority in the 543-member lower house of parliament, where 272 is needed for a simple majority. A two-thirds majority will allow the government to usher in far-reaching amendments in the constitution.

A summary of five major exit polls projected the NDA could win between 353 and 401 seats, a number that is likely to boost financial markets when they reopen on Monday. The NDA won 353 seats in the 2019 general election, of which BJP accounted for 303.

Three of the five polls projected BJP alone could win more than the 303 it won in 2019.

The opposition "INDIA" alliance led by Rahul Gandhi's Congress party was projected to win between 125 and 182 seats.

Exit polls, which are conducted by polling agencies, have a patchy record in India as they have often got the outcome wrong, with analysts saying it is a challenge to get them right in the large and diverse country.

In his first comments after voting ended, Modi claimed victory without referring to the exit polls.

"I can say with confidence that the people of India have voted in record numbers to re-elect the NDA government," he said on X, without providing evidence of his claim.

"The opportunistic INDI Alliance failed to strike a chord with the voters. They are casteist, communal and corrupt."

Pre-election surveys said the BJP would easily keep its majority in the election. But the party ran into a spirited campaign by the "INDIA" alliance, sowing some doubt about how close the race might be, and many political analysts had predicted the BJP's margin of victory would be narrower than or close to the 2019 tally.

The opposition dismissed the exit polls, and ahead of their publication had called them "prefixed". Most opposition parties accuse India's main news channels of being biased in favour of Modi, charges the channels deny. They also say exit polls in India are mostly unscientific.

"This is a government exit poll, this is Narendra Modi's exit poll," Supriya Shrinate, the Congress's social media head, told news agency ANI, in which Reuters has a minority stake.

"We have a sense of how many seats we are winning, it will not be one seat less than 295," she said.

UNCERTAINTY LIFTED, ANALYSTS SAY

Nearly one billion people were eligible to vote in the seven-phase election that began on April 19 and was held in scorching summer heat in many areas.

The Election Commission will count votes on June 4 and results are expected the same day.

A victory for Modi, 73, will make him only the second prime minister after independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru to win three consecutive terms.

Modi began his re-election campaign by focusing on his achievements over the last 10 years but soon switched to mostly targeting the Congress by accusing it of favouring India's minority Muslims, which the opposition party denies.

The opposition has largely campaigned on affirmative action programmes and saving the constitution from what they call Modi's dictatorial rule, an allegation the BJP denies.

Unemployment and inflation are the main concerns for voters in the majority-Hindu country of 1.4 billion people, surveys have said.

Market analysts said the exit polls had lifted uncertainty about the likely result and signalled the continuity of Modi's growth-focused economic policies.

© Reuters. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures to his supporters during an election campaign rally, in New Delhi, India, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

"Exit poll results which indicate a clear victory for the NDA with around 360 seats completely remove the so-called election jitters which have been weighing on markets in May," said V.K. Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist at Geojit Financial Services.

"This comes as a shot in the arm for the bulls who will trigger a big rally in the market on Monday," he said.

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