Making major gains in West Bengal and Odisha while holding his own in northern India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cruised to a second term in office, with the BJP alone looking set to win just over 300 seats in the seven-phase Lok Sabha election.
Decimating the Opposition alliances in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the BJP ensured that the Congress, which hovered around a tally of 50, would not be able to claim the official position of the Leader of the Opposition for the second time running. The defeat could trigger major churn in the Opposition ranks, particularly in the Congress.
The Congress-led UDF notched up impressive numbers at the expense of the Left in Kerala, winning 19 of the 20 seats, while the DMK-led coalition demolished the AIADMK-BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu, winning in 37 out of 39, including the lone seat in Puducherry.
Shrugging off its north-centric tag, the BJP won eight more seats in Karnataka over 2014, taking its total in the State to 25 out of a possible 28, and also made further inroads in the northeast.
Its major NDA allies — Shiv Sena (18), JD (U) 16, LJP 6 and Akali Dal 2 — took the alliance tally to a staggering 345, making it clear that the voter had come out in support of stability and a projected strong leader like Mr. Modi.
“Thank you India! The faith placed in our alliance is humbling and gives us strength to work even harder to fulfil people’s aspirations,” Mr. Modi tweeted.
The Prime Minister, who campaigned relentlessly on the Balakot plank and repeatedly called the Opposition alliances examples of grand adulteration, dropped just 10 seats in U.P., and took all or nearly all seats in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The Opposition’s efforts to pin down the government on issues like demonetisation, GST or the Rafale purchase seemed to have made no impression on the electorate, which backed his second-term campaign to the hilt. The multi-phase poll in U.P., Bihar and West Bengal allowed Mr. Modi to concentrate on these States, which brought rich dividends to the party.
The BJP’s most spectacular success came from West Bengal, where the party was leading in as many as 18 seats, having won just two in the previous Lok Sabha election. Given the bitter exchanges with Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, the Bengal performance comes as a major boost for the BJP.
Its controversial choice for the Bhopal seat, terror accused Pragya Thakur, was leading over senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh by over three lakh votes, sending a signal that any candidate anointed by Mr. Modi could win. After the final results are known and a notification from the Election Commission is issued, a re-empowered Mr. Modi and BJP president Amit Shah will get down to the job of government formation.