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India's Hindu nationalists post strong early returns

counting votes
Nearly 350 million votes must be counted by hand  

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India's Hindu nationalists and their rivals were working Tuesday to form coalition governments as the Congress Party virtually conceded defeat in national elections.

Despite the strong early returns for the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, voter projections showed that no party was likely to win a majority in the 545-member lower house of parliament.

Final results were expected later Tuesday.

As BJP posted solid early returns Monday, party supporters pounded drums and danced outside a New Delhi election center.

"It will be a victory of the inspiring leadership, the programs and policies that the BJP wants to implement," said Jagmohan, a victorious candidate from New Delhi.

The Congress Party, which governed India for 45 of its 50 years of independence, appeared to be running close to the BJP in early results, but the Hindu party was expected to easily outdistance Congress. The United Front coalition, which lost power in December, was crushed.

State television projected the BJP and its allies would win 252 seats, putting the party in a strong position to form a government.

The Congress Party and its allies were projected to win 143 seats, and the incumbent United Front -- a 14-party alliance that has governed India for the past 18 months -- just 96 seats.

Seats won in the parliamentary races decided so far:
Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies:211
Congress Party and its allies:155
United Front:89
Independents and others:18
 
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