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Modi-led BJP’s alliance fell short of the landslide victory predicted by exit polls

In early vote counting trends during the general election on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alliance surged toward a majority, but the numbers fell short of the landslide predicted by exit polls, according to TV channels.

The initial see-saw trends unsettled the markets, causing steep declines in stocks. Both the NIFTY 50 and the S&P BSE Sensex dropped over 2% by 0500 GMT. The rupee also weakened against the dollar, and benchmark bond yields rose.

On Monday, markets had soared after exit polls projected a significant victory for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) expected to secure a two-thirds majority or more.

By 0430 GMT, TV channels indicated that the NDA was leading in nearly 300 of the 543 elective seats in parliament, a simple majority, during early counting. The opposition INDIA alliance, led by Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party, was ahead in over 200 seats, which was more than anticipated.

At that time, only about 10%-15% of the total votes had been counted, according to TV reports.

The BJP alone was leading in nearly 250 of the NDA’s seats, compared to the 303 it won in 2019. Trends showed Modi alternating between leading and trailing in his seat in Varanasi, the Hindu holy city.

The first votes counted were postal ballots, mostly cast by troops serving outside their home constituencies or officials on election duty. This year, postal votes were also available to voters over 85 years old and people with disabilities, allowing them to vote from home.

Counting is expected to take several hours, with the majority of votes cast in electronic voting machines (EVMs) being counted after the initial 30 minutes of postal ballot counting.

“These are very early trends; we are going to see better results as the day progresses,” said Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera.

Markets experienced a downturn after Monday’s sharp rise, as traders expressed nervousness about the margin of victory.

The NIFTY 50 was down 2.2% at 0345 GMT, and the S&P BSE Sensex was down 1.8%.

Exit polls broadcast on June 1 after voting ended had predicted a big win for Modi, but exit polls in India have often been inaccurate. Nearly one billion people were registered to vote, with 642 million turning out.

India’s stock market had surged to lifetime highs on Monday based on projections that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance could win a two-thirds majority in the 543-member lower house of parliament. Several major polls suggested the BJP alone could surpass the 303 seats it won in 2019, which boosted Indian shares while the rupee gained and bond yields fell.

The seven-phase, seven-week election began on April 19, held in extreme summer heat with temperatures nearing 50° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit) in some regions. Over 66% of registered voters turned out, just one percentage point lower than in 2019, dispelling concerns of a low turnout in an election widely expected to favor Modi.

Modi, 73, who first came to power in 2014 with promises of growth and change, is seeking to become only the second prime minister after India’s independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru to win three consecutive terms. He started his campaign by highlighting his record on economic growth, welfare policies, national pride, Hindu nationalism, and his personal commitment to fulfilling promises, which he termed “Modi’s Guarantee.”

However, after a low voter turnout in the first phase, Modi shifted his campaign strategy, accusing the opposition, particularly the Congress party, of favoring India’s 200 million Muslims—a tactic analysts described as coarse and divisive.

This shift was seen as an attempt to galvanize Modi’s Hindu nationalist base. Modi defended himself, arguing that he was merely criticizing the opposition’s campaign.

The opposition INDIA alliance, led by Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party, denied favoring Muslims in the Hindu-majority country and warned that Modi’s return to power could threaten the constitution and end affirmative action for backward castes—a claim the BJP rejects.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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