India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) flashes victory sign as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate the party's win in country's general election, in New Delhi on Tuesday, after claiming election victory for his party and its allies

India’s Narendra Modi claims third successive general election victory despite disappointing performance by his party

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 Indian prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed his third general election win despite a lackluster performance from his own party as it faced a stronger than expected challenge from his opponents.

‘Today’s victory is the victory of the world’s largest democracy’ he said, speaking at his party headquarters, after placing his faith in the ruling coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, which he said will form the government for the third consecutive time.

For the first time since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in 2014, it appeared unlikely that it would secure a majority on its own – but the prime minister’s coalition was still expected to be elected to a third five-year term in the world’s largest democratic exercise.

If Modi does have to rely on coalition support to govern, it would be a stunning blow for the 73-year-old, who had hoped for a landslide victory.

Early figures showed Modi on track to win another parliamentary majority after a six-week-long election that saw 642 million people vote in seven stages across the world’s most populous country.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) flashes victory sign as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate the party's win in country's general election, in New Delhi on Tuesday, after claiming election victory for his party and its allies

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) flashes victory sign as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate the party’s win in country’s general election, in New Delhi on Tuesday, after claiming election victory for his party and its allies

With more than a quarter of votes counted by midday, election commission figures showed Modi's ruling BJP and its allies leading in at least 281 seats

With more than a quarter of votes counted by midday, election commission figures showed Modi’s ruling BJP and its allies leading in at least 281 seats

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures, at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures, at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday

Modi said at the weekend he was confident that ‘the people of India have voted in record numbers’ to re-elect his government, a decade after he first became prime minister.

With more than a quarter of votes counted by midday, election commission figures showed Modi’s ruling BJP and its allies leading in at least 281 seats.

A total of 272 seats are needed for a majority. In 2019, the BJP won 303 seats, while they secured 282 in 2014 when Modi first came to power. 

Figures so far showed the BJP with a vote share two points higher than the party’s last victory in 2019, but the party was forecast to win fewer seats. 

But while the BJP may be celebrating, the victory during a particularly hot summer in India has come at the cost of dozens polling staff, who died of heatstroke. 

At least 33 election workers died on the last day of voting from in just one state, the northern Uttar Pradesh. 

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (pictured) has all but assured a victory in his nation's elections

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (pictured) has all but assured a victory in his nation’s elections

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters celebrate after learning the initial general election results at party headquarters in New Delhi, India

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters celebrate after learning the initial general election results at party headquarters in New Delhi, India

Thinktank Freedom House said this year that the BJP had 'increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents'

Thinktank Freedom House said this year that the BJP had ‘increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents’

The staff who died included security guards and cleaners, who died from heatstroke after the state reached a blazing high of 52.9C. 

Officials said the families of the deceased will get just 15 million rupees (£14,000) as compensation. 

Analysts said that the scorching heat may have contributed to a lower voter turnout, and a top official admitted the polling should’ve been scheduled to end a month earlier.  

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Modi’s opponents have struggled to counter the BJP’s well-oiled and well-funded campaign juggernaut, and have been hamstrung by what they say are politically motivated criminal cases aimed at hobbling challengers.

Thinktank Freedom House said this year that the BJP had ‘increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents’.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of the capital Delhi and a key leader in an alliance formed to compete against Modi, returned to jail on Sunday.

Many of India's 200 million-plus Muslim minority are increasingly uneasy about their futures

Many of India’s 200 million-plus Muslim minority are increasingly uneasy about their futures

The polls were staggering in their size and logistical complexity

The polls were staggering in their size and logistical complexity

Turnout came to 66.3 percent, down roughly one percentage point from 67.4 percent in the last polls in 2019

Turnout came to 66.3 percent, down roughly one percentage point from 67.4 percent in the last polls in 2019

Kejriwal, 55, was detained in March over a long-running corruption probe, but was later released and allowed to campaign as long as he returned to custody once voting ended.

‘When power becomes dictatorship, then jail becomes a responsibility,’ Kejriwal said before surrendering himself, vowing to continue ‘fighting’ from behind bars.

Many of India’s 200 million-plus Muslim minority are increasingly uneasy about their futures and their community’s place in the constitutionally secular country.

Modi himself made several strident comments about Muslims on the campaign trail, referring to them as ‘infiltrators’. 

The polls were staggering in their size and logistical complexity, with voters casting their ballots in megacities New Delhi and Mumbai, as well as in sparsely populated forest areas and in the high-altitude territory of Kashmir.

Votes were cast on electronic voting machines, so the tally will be rapid, with results expected later Tuesday.

Counting began in the morning at key tally centres in each state, with the data fed into computers.

Final voter data is yet to be released as repolling took place in two stations in West Bengal state on Monday

Final voter data is yet to be released as repolling took place in two stations in West Bengal state on Monday

An election official shows an electronic voting machine to a polling agent

An election official shows an electronic voting machine to a polling agent

Activists of Trinamool Congress (TMC) party celebrate vote counting results for India's general election

Activists of Trinamool Congress (TMC) party celebrate vote counting results for India’s general election

‘People should know about the strength of Indian democracy,’ chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar said Monday, vowing there was a ‘robust counting process in place’.

Election chief Kumar on Monday proclaimed the 642 million votes cast a ‘world record’.

But based on the commission’s figure of an electorate of 968 million, turnout came to 66.3 percent, down roughly one percentage point from 67.4 percent in the last polls in 2019.

Final voter data is yet to be released as repolling took place in two stations in West Bengal state on Monday.

India’s major TV networks had reporters outside each counting centre, competing to flash results for each of the 543 elected seats in the lower house of parliament.

In past years, key trends have been clear by mid-afternoon with losers conceding defeat, even though full and final results may only come late on Tuesday night.

Celebrations are expected at the headquarters of Modi’s BJP if the full results reflect exit poll predictions.

What a Modi victory means for the rest of the world 

The US and Europe

 President Joe Biden hosted Modi for a state dinner last year and has called ties with India the ‘defining partnership of the 21st century’.

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In February, Washington approved a $4 billion sale of state-of-the-art drones to India, the latest bolster to India’s defence in a counterbalance to neighbouring China.

That deepening of ties has come despite rights groups sounding the alarm about threats to India’s democracy and increased discrimination towards the 200-million-plus Muslim minority.

The relationship has not been entirely seamless, however.

The US Justice Department last year charged an Indian citizen with allegedly plotting an assassination attempt in New York approved by India’s intelligence agency.

India also has strong ties with European countries.

With France, it hopes to expand multi-billion-dollar deals including the sale of Rafale fighter jets and Scorpene-class submarines.

US President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi toast during an official State Dinner

US President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi toast during an official State Dinner

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 13, 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 13, 2023

China

Relations between the world’s two most populous countries slumped in 2020 after their troops fought a deadly high-altitude skirmish along their 3,500-kilometre (2,200-mile) frontier.

Tens of thousands of troops from the nuclear-armed Asian giants continue to eyeball each other. Territorial claims remain a perennial source of tension.

Modi’s right-wing government has pumped billions of dollars into border infrastructure and boosted military spending by 13 percent last year – but it is still barely a quarter of China’s.

Despite their rivalry, China is India’s second-largest trade partner.

Russia

New Delhi and Moscow have ties dating back to the Cold War and Russia remains by far the biggest arms supplier.

India has shied away from explicit condemnation of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, abstained on UN resolutions censuring Moscow, and snapped up cut-price Russian crude oil supplies.

Modi in March congratulated President Vladimir Putin on his re-election, adding he was looking forward to developing their ‘special’ relationship.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 5, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 5, 2018

Pakistan

Modi’s government has refused to engage with historic rival Pakistan since accusing Islamabad of cross-border terrorism.

The two nations have fought three wars and numerous smaller skirmishes since being carved out of the subcontinent’s partition in 1947. Control of contested Kashmir has been at the centre of tensions.

In 2015 Modi made a surprise visit to the Pakistani city of Lahore but relations plummeted in 2019.

But in March, Modi congratulated Pakistani counterpart Shehbaz Sharif on his return to the premiership.

It was a rare expression of goodwill between leaders of the two nuclear-armed rivals, and raised hopes there could be a thawing of relations.



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