Early Results From India’s Elections Point to a Modi Victory. Here’s What to Know

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After an elaborate seven-phase election set over five-and-a-half weeks, India’s marathon polls finally came to a close on Sunday. Counting to determine the winner in the world’s largest democratic election began at 8 a.m. local time on Thursday morning, with the official results rolling out late Thursday or early Friday morning.

The election is seen as a referendum on incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which swept to victory in a populist wave in 2014, taking 282 of the 543 seats in Parliament and pushing out the opposition Congress party, which ruled India for 54 of its 67 years since independence.

Modi, who is the son of a tea seller, was seen by many as the answer to a political dynasty that had gripped power. His bid for re-election will be heavily influenced by concerns about the economy, security and sectarianism.

What do the polls say?

As of around 11:00 a.m. local time on Thursday, the Election Commission shows Modi’s BJP party ahead in votes for 294 out of 542 seats, and the opposition Congress party ahead in 50 contests, according to the Associated Press.

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka has already sent his congratulations to Modi on Twitter.

Exit polls predicted a win for Modi and the BJP.

The BJP’s main opposition is the Indian National Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi. He hails from a long line of successful politicians – his great-grandfather was the first Prime Minister of India, his grandmother was the first female to take on the role and his father also served a term in the office.

What are the key issues?

The economy is perhaps the biggest issue confronting Indian voters this year.

For Modi – who ran on a platform of job creation and economic development in 2014 – his promises have not quite materialized. Unemployment is rising, with 11 million jobs lost in 2018 alone, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

The farming industry is in crisis as price controls Modi enacted have hurt farming incomes.

Gandhi’s party promised voters that if elected, he will implement a minimum basic income for every citizen.

National security is another hot topic, with Modi portraying himself as a protector of India.

Modi flexed his military might in the months leading up to the election. When a Pakistani-based militant group killed 40 Indian troops in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir in February, Modi sent Indian jets into Pakistani airspace for the first time since 1971 and bombed what it said was a training camp. It was a dangerous escalation of tensions between the two nuclear states.

Sectarian tensions have also been increasing in recent years, with hostility growing towards the country’s Muslim minority of almost 200 million people. Modi has remained largely silent as the incidence of Hindu mob attacks on Muslims have become increasingly frequent, many premised on defending cows, which are worshipped in the Hindu religion.

Who voted?

About 900 million people were eligible to vote this year, making it the world’s largest democratic election.

More than half the population is under the age of 30, so the youth vote, faced with rising unemployment, matters.

Female voter participation has also increased in recent elections as women seek to have their concerns about safety and welfare addressed, and this year’s election is also believed to have a seen record turnout of women at the polls.

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