India election results: Modi declares victory

7:28 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

Modi poised to secure resounding victory

Supporters throw flower petals at Narendra Modi on April 9, 2014 in Vadodra, India. 
Supporters throw flower petals at Narendra Modi on April 9, 2014 in Vadodra, India.  Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poised to secure a stunning victory in the country's general elections, defying expectations of even his own party, early results show. 

Though only a handful of seats have been officially called, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which needs 272 seats in the next parliament to form a government, is leading in 349 seats. The main opposition Congress Party, in contrast, is only leading in 50 seats.

Full results are expected to emerge in the next few hours.

The result follows a polarizing election during which Modi and the BJP portrayed the incumbent less as an economic reformer -- the main message in the 2014 elections that first brought Modi to national office -- and more as a muscular nationalist firmly rooted in the Hindu right wing movement, a turn that made many liberals and minority Indians nervous.

Read more here.

6:35 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

Hindu nationalist leader looks set to defy critics with thumping majority

Bloomberg/Hindustan Times/Getty Images
Bloomberg/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

A bitterly contested election campaign appears poised to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a resounding mandate.

The collective opposition, meanwhile, look set to be relegated to a smaller portion on the benches in the lower house of the Parliament.

For the last three decades, India had been governed by a series of broken and temperamental coalitions. Modi’s entrance in 2014 broke the streak when his party won 282 seats out of a total of 543 elected seats. A party needs to pass the halfway mark of 272 to comfortably form a government. 

If trends turn to concrete results, the victory will supersede expectations set by even the BJP -- and will be compared to the last such victory in 1984 when Rajiv Gandhi (the father of current Congress Party leader, Rahul Gandhi) from the Congress Party tacked up a total of 426 seats.

Gandhi’s extraordinary win had come after the assassination of his mother and sitting Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi in 1984.

India’s politics have been dominated for more than 50 years by a single party -- Congress. And Modi’s rhetoric of building a Congress-free India seems to have resonated with voters. The party was decimated to just 44 seats in 2014 and is leading in just 50 constituencies today. 

The BJP -- initially under a different name -- emerged in the '70s as an alternative to the grand old party of India but remained weak till the '90s. Multiple leaders have slowly built its ranks and consolidated power in the party.

In a highly charged election campaign which lasted for more than five weeks, Gandhi’s Congress expounded on the failures of the incumbent government and Modi campaigned on his image as India’s one and only solution for a strong leader.

A definitive result is expected to emerge in the next few hours.

6:31 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

Your election questions answered

CNN's New Delhi Bureau Chief Nikhil Kumar answered your questions about India's election on LINE. Here are the highlights from that chat.

Q: What are the major issues in the election?

Heading into the election, there was much discussion about the economy, about whether Modi had delivered on the economic promises he made when he first won national office in 2014. Many experts say, for example, that the joblessness plaguing India’s young people -- something he’d promised to fix -- has worsened. Roughly 12 million young Indians enter the workforce each year, but they too often struggle to find work.

There are also signs of growing distress in India’s farm sector. But these and other issues were overshadowed by nationalism and national security -- Modi presented himself as a protector of the nation, not the would be reformer we saw in 2014. And it appears to have worked. It’s something that has worried many liberals and Indians who belong to religious minorities -- Modi belongs to the Hindu right wing movement, many members of which see India as an exclusively Hindu nation.

Q: Why is India's election system so complex, and have there been any problems so far?

It's a long and complicated process, yes -- but then look at the numbers involved: some 900 million Indians were eligible to vote. Making sure they could do so safely and securely meant installing around a million polling stations. Around ten million officials were involved in overseeing the exercise. There were thousands of candidates.

We’re still waiting for final numbers but early reports suggest around 600 million actually voted -- a massive number, which helps explain the complex electoral process.

Q: How does this matter to the outside world?

It matters a lot. India has a massive population, around 1.3 billion, many of whom are very young: most Indians are under 25. They live in what is an increasingly important economic power. Who governs them, how they are governed, matters immensely to the wider world.

Q: How will these results affect the Muslim minority in India?

Many Indian liberals and minorities have been very worried about the rise of Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP. Here’s a good piece from this morning, by my colleague Swati Gupta, that explains their fears well: they’ve often faced violence as Hindu nationalists have gained the upper hand politically. Read more on that here.

Q: How will results affect India's diplomatic relations?

If current early trends hold and the BJP wins, then we should see a continuity: We’ll have the same Prime Minister, and he’s largely been in charge of foreign policy here. Look for more efforts to try to build India’s profile in the region -- there’s a debate about just how much Modi has succeeded here, but it’s something that he’s often talked about.

Q: What would be Modi's main agenda if he were elected?

In 2014, he portrayed himself as an economic reformer. But this time, with big questions about whether he lived up to that image in his first term, he’s campaigned more as a popular nationalist. Hindu nationalism was a big theme this time. So what does that mean? Many here worry that it means the hardline Hindu right wing fringe will be emboldened -- and that we could see a further erosion of India’s secular foundations.

6:10 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

Pakistan test-fires a missile as trends show Modi on course for majority win

Pakistan announced on Thursday that it had successfully test-fired a Shaheen II ballistic missile, which can carry both conventional or nuclear payloads.

Tensions between the two nuclear-powered South Asian adversaries had been heightened in the run-up to the election.

Following a deadly terrorist attack on Indian paramilitary troops in the Indian-controlled Kashmir district of Pulwama in February, Modi launched airstrikes across the Line of Control, the de facto border separating India and Pakistan.

While Modi said they were targeting a terrorist training camp, Pakistan disputed that version of events and denied the existence of a militant camp there.

5:54 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

BJP wins first seat

The first seat has been declared in India's general election and it goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

More than seven hours after vote counts began, the first seat to be declared is from Havari constituency in southwest Karnataka state.

BJP candidate Udasi S.C. won with a margin of 140,882 votes.

Early trends show Modi's party taking the lead in 300 constituencies, giving him a strong majority if it translates into seats.

5:38 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

Modi could make an address at 5:30 p.m. local time

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to meet party workers and possibly make a public statement at 5:30 p.m. (8:00 a.m. ET) at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, the Prime Minister's Office told CNN.

5:32 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

What do early results mean for Rahul Gandhi?

Rahul Gandhi waves during an election campaign rally on December 9, 2017 in Ahmedabad, India. 
Rahul Gandhi waves during an election campaign rally on December 9, 2017 in Ahmedabad, India.  Hindustan Times/Getty Images

He is the heir apparent to India's most powerful political dynasty. But early vote counts show Rahul Gandhi is facing a big loss in the country's general election campaign.

With no seats declared, Gandhi's Congress Party is currently leading in 50 constituencies, compared to the BJP's 300.

If the trends turn into concrete results it will be a stunning loss for a party that has campaigned on an anti-Modi ticket.

In 2014, when Modi stormed to victory, the Congress won just 44 parliamentary seats to the BJP's 282. Gandhi was the face of the party's campaign then as he is now.

Who is Gandhi?

Born in 1970, Gandhi is the son of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. His grandmother Indira was India's first female leader, and his great grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the country's founding Prime Minister. His grandmother was assassinated while in office and his father was killed by a bomb blast while he was campaigning in Tamil Nadu.

Gandhi entered politics in 2004, when he was elected to the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of parliament, from the Amethi constituency in northern Uttar Pradesh state -- a seat once held by his father and his mother. In subsequent years, he moved up the Congress Party's hierarchy, becoming vice president in 2013.

The key challenge for Gandhi was to capitalize on the subdued economic mood to rebuild what was once a formidable national party machine that occupied the center-ground in Indian politics.

Trends show that this approach may have failed.

Read more on Rahul Gandhi here.

5:24 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

Modi makes first public statement

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made his first public comments since the results began to come in.

In a tweet Modi said, "Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!

While no seats have been officially declared, early trends show Modi's BJP leading in 300 constituencies.

5:21 a.m. ET, May 23, 2019

Israeli PM congratulates Modi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his congratulations to Modi in a series of tweets in Hebrew, Hindu and English.

"Together we will continue to strengthen the great friendship between India and Israel," he said.

While no seats have been officially declared, trends show Modi's BJP winning a majority.