Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling alliance is likely to win a clear majority in parliament after a mammoth general election, most exit polls show, a far better showing than expected in recent weeks.
Mr Modi faced criticism early on in the campaign for failing to create jobs for young people and for weak farm prices, and the election race was thought to be tightening with the main opposition Congress party gaining ground.
But he rallied his Hindu nationalist base and turned the campaign into a fight for national security after tensions rose with Pakistan and attacked his main rival for being soft on the country’s arch foe.
Mr Modi’s National Democratic Alliance is projected to win 287 seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament followed by 128 for the Congress party-led opposition alliance, CVoter exit poll showed.
To rule, a party needs the support of 272 MPs.
Votes are to be counted on Thursday.
Exit polls, though, have a mixed record in a country with an electorate of 900 million people.
With the majority of the polls indicating a clear majority for Mr Modi’s alliance, Indian equity markets are expected to rally sharply on Monday. Market insiders said the Indian rupee was also likely to strengthen against the US dollar.
According to another poll released by Times Now television, Mr Modi’s alliance is likely to get 306 seats, a clear majority. One poll by Neta Newsx, though, forecast Mr Modi’s group falling 30 seats short.
Critics say Mr Modi has stoked fear among India’s Hindu majority of the potential dangers posed by the country’s Muslims and Pakistan, and promoted a Hindu-first India.
But Mr Modi’s supporters say the Prime Minister and his allies are simply restoring Hinduism to its rightful place at the core of Indian society.