Indian Prime Minister meets party leaders after election win

By EMILY SCHMALL, NEW DELHI, May 24 (AP) — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was meeting with leaders of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday fresh off his thunderous victory in the general elections.

Modi will meet with his Cabinet as part of a series of post-election formalities before he can be sworn in as India’s new prime minister.

The Election Commission showed that the BJP won 301 out of the 525 constituencies in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, as of late morning Friday. The party’s top rival, the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, won 52 seats, and the All India Trinamool Congress led by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee won 22 seats. The final results are not in for the remaining 7 seats.

 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah greet supporters on arrival at the party headquarters in New Delhi, India, Thursday, May 23, 2019. Modi's Hindu nationalist party claimed it won reelection with a commanding lead in Thursday's vote count, while the head of the main opposition party conceded a personal defeat that signaled the end of an era for modern India's main political dynasty. (AP Photo)

Gandhi, the scion of modern India’s most powerful political dynasty, personally conceded his seat, long a Congress party bastion, to his BJP rival, India’s textiles minister, signaling the end of an era.

Vote counting of the estimated 600 million ballots cast over six weeks of staggered polling — the world’s largest democratic exercise — began early Thursday.

The victory in India was widely seen as a referendum on Modi’s Hindu-first politics that some observers say have bred intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities, as well as his muscular stance on neighboring Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year.

Analysts said that voters will expect the new Modi government to quickly return to the business of economic reform, which the BJP effectively sidelined as a campaign issue after responding to a February terrorist attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir with an airstrike in Pakistan that stoked nationalist sentiments.

“Building up your national security credentials, as the only person who can stand up to India’s ‘enemies’ can only take you so far. The real question is can Modi deliver on his economic commitments for example creating the high number of jobs needed? This is essential to address India’s growing wealth inequalities,” said Dr. Champa Patel, Head of the Asia Pacific program at London-based Chatham House.

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