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INDIA GIVES MODI A HIGH FIVE

Party sheds its north-centric tag with a near sweep in Karnataka, winning 8 more seats than in 2014Modi cruises to second term with gains in West Bengal and Odisha, and holding his own in the north BJP ensures that Congress will not be able to lay claim to the post of Leader of the OppositionOpposition’s efforts to corner government on demonetisation, GST and Rafale make no impact

A day to remember: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah waving to party workers at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday. R.V. Moorthy The Hindu

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 Leader of the Opposition for the second time running. The defeat could trigger a 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 38 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 northeastern region.

Its major NDA allies — the Shiv Sena (18), the JD(U) 16, the LJP 6 and the Akali Dal 2 — took the alliance tally to a staggering 350, 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.

Balakot plank

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 such issues as demonetisation, the GST or the Rafale jet deal seemed to have made no impression on the electorate, which backed his second-term campaign to the hilt. The multi-phase election in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal allowed Mr. Modi to concentrate on these States, which brought rich dividends to the party.

Spectacular success

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 performance comes as a major boost for the BJP.

Its controversial choice for the Bhopal seat, terror accused Pragya Thakur, defeated 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 task of government formation.

A mandate from a new India: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected back with a bigger majority than before, termed his victory a mandate from a new India and a victory for democracy and for an aspirational and inclusive country.

Addressing party workers at the BJP headquarters here, Mr. Modi said the mandate laid the foundation for the 21st century India, where there would be only two castes. “The first of these castes would be the poor, and the second those who want to fight poverty,” he said. The emergence of these two castes in this election was the reason for the defeat of parties that espoused casteism.

In an impassioned speech, he said that in his second term, he wanted to make three vows to the people. “My first vow is that I will not do anything out of ill-will or bad intentions, I could make mistakes but never do anything out of malice. My second vow is that I shall never do anything for myself in order to garner profit for myself, and my third vow is that every minute of my life and myself I shall devote to the country. Whenever you want to evaluate me, you must do so on these parameters,” he said.

BJP sweeps all seven Delhi seats again

Party betters its 2014 vote share, polling over 15% more than AAP, Cong. combined

Manoj Tiwari, Delhi BJP chief and candidate from North East Delhi, flashes the victory sign at the party office in New Delhi on Thursday. Sushil Kumar Verma Sushil Kumar Verma

The BJP won all seven parliamentary seats in Delhi on Thursday, repeating not just its 2014 count but bettering it in terms of vote share with an increase of nearly 10%. It tallied 56.60% of the votes polled, up from 46.63% in the previous general election.

Party chief Amit Shah, in his victory speech later in the day, said Delhi figures among 17 States where the BJP’s vote share has gone past 50%.

In terms of numbers, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, which were looking to ally in the Capital, got a combined vote share of approximately 40.63%, which was even lesser than the BJP’s lowest vote share of 52.94% in Chandni Chowk seat.

While five of the party’s sitting MPs — Harsh Vardhan from Chandni Chowk, Meenakshi Lekhi from New Delhi, Parvesh Verma from West Delhi, Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari from North East Delhi — retained their seats, newcomers Gautam Gambhir from the East and Hans Raj Hans from the North West seats registered victories with vote shares of 55.35% and 60.49% respectively.

Mr. Verma also won with a sizeable vote share of 60.05%, even as the closest electoral contest in Chandni Chowk saw Dr. Vardhan, in whose favour 5,09,465 votes were polled, sailing through with a margin of more than 2.28 lakh votes over his closest rival, Congress candidate Jai Prakash Agarwal, who bagged 2,90,910 votes.

Cong. bounceback

Thursday’s results seemed to herald a revival for the Congress in Delhi. The party replaced AAP as runner-up in five seats: Chandni Chowk, East, New Delhi, North East and West.

From 15.22% in 2014, the Congress vote share went up to 22.43% in 2019, registering an increase of 7.21%. AAP, which had a vote share of 33.08% in 2014, notched only 18.15% this time — much of its 14.93% drop in vote share seemingly benefiting both the Congress and the BJP.

Of its seven candidates, AAP’s North East Delhi candidate Dilip Pandey secured the lowest vote share (13.06%) while its South Delhi candidate Raghav Chadha polled 26.35% votes.

AAP insiders conceded that the Congress, despite “zero representation” in the Delhi Assembly, had resurfaced as a force to reckon with in the Capital. This, they claimed, was due to the party’s success in “winning back” a portion of its original vote share — which had gradually eroded and shifted to AAP when it came to power on the back of an anti-Congress wave — over the last five years and “dissatisfaction” with the AAP government formed in Delhi in 2015.

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