x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

BJP eyes decisive majority after Indian exit polls

All forecasts released after voting ended on Monday showed Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies trouncing the Congress party which has been in power for a decade

NEW DELHI // India’s main opposition party said on Tuesday it was headed for a decisive majority in the world’s biggest election after exit polls showed its hardline leader Narendra Modi closing in on victory.

All forecasts released after voting ended on Monday showed Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies trouncing the Congress party which has been in power for a decade, and most indicated they would seal a narrow majority.

Results are due on Friday, with some still cautioning against over-confidence in a BJP victory given notorious forecasting errors at the last two general elections.

Mr Modi was keeping a low profile, but senior BJP figures struck a bullish note by predicting the opposition would win more than 300 of the 543 seats in parliament although it was willing to work with additional partners.

“These elections have been fought on a hope that the country will get a good, stable government,” said VK Singh, a former army chief of staff who is now a senior BJP leader.

“After May 16, we will be open to working with any, all entities that wish to work with us for the country’s well-being and development.”

Asked about the exit polls predicting a majority for the BJP-led alliance, Mr Singh replied: “We may perform even better than this.”

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar predicted that the alliance would get more than 300, echoing Mr Modi’s chief lieutenant, Amit Shah.

“My personal view is that we will get around 300 seats,” Mr Shah said.

“We will still be open to support and collaboration from any party that wants to work with a government that is committed to work for the nation,” he said.

Stock markets surged to record highs on hopes of a business-friendly government under Mr Modi.

The Bombay Stock Exchange index, also known as the Sensex, gained nearly 2 per cent at one stage, hitting a new record high before dipping slightly in early afternoon trade.

The Sensex has gained about 22 per cent since the BJP chose Mr Modi as its prime ministerial candidate in September.

Data released on Monday showed that industrial production shrank in March for the fifth time in sixth months, underlining the scale of the challenge for the next government in reviving growth.

Mr Modi has largely steered clear of Hindu nationalist rhetoric on the campaign trail, promising to concentrate on development by rolling out the red carpet to companies and restore badly battered business confidence.

While a sweep by the BJP had been expected, the predicted scale of defeat for Congress was still striking, with exit polls showing support for the party, which has ruled India for most of the post-independence era, at an historic low.

Party leaders have dismissed the surveys and remain defiant in public, insisting that Friday’s results will surprise the pollsters and hand the Congress-led alliance a third term in power.

* Agence France-Presse