Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to unite the country on Thursday after a victory in Lok Sabha elections, with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on course to increase its majority on a mandate of business-friendly policies and a tough stand on national security.
The NDA was ahead in 342 of the 542 seats being contested, compared to the 346 it won in 2014 and more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in Lok Sabha. The BJP itself was leading in more than 300 seats, giving it the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984.
"Together we will build a strong and inclusive India," Modi said on Twitter. "India wins yet again!"
Modi's victory boosted financial markets as investors expect his government to continue to pursue economic reforms. He will be under pressure to provide work opportunities for the tens of millions of young people coming on to the job market in the next few years and to boost depressed farm incomes.
"The immediate challenges are to address employment, the issue of agricultural income and revive the banking sector," Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings in Mumbai, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Cheering supporters set off firecrackers and showered the mastermind of the campaign, BJP president Amit Shah, with petals as he arrived at party headquarters in New Delhi.
"It's a stamp of approval by voters on the honest and decisive leadership of Prime Minister Modi," said Nalin S Kohli, a BJP spokesman.
Congress leaders were sombre.
"I had said during campaigning that the people are supreme. People have given a clear decision. I congratulate Narendra Modi and his party," said Congress president Rahul Gandhi at a press conference in Delhi.
It was thought the Congress would somewhat improve in states where it is in direct contest with the BJP and the grand alliance of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal would limit BJP’s wins in UP.
The Congress, in the event, could not hold on to its gains made in the recently held Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The BJP is nearly on the road to repeat its performance in these states, as also in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Bihar.
It would also seem the SP-BSP-RLD alliance failed to click in UP. It would seem that not only the transfer of vote did not take place between these parties, but the Yadav support base of the SP and RLD’s Jat support base might have deserted them to vote for the BJP.
The BJP is making inroads in West Bengal, where it was pitted against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress. It is also set to improve upon its 2014 tally of one seat in Odisha.
The Congress, the country's main Opposition party, is ahead in Punjab and Tamil Nadu, where it has allied with the DMK.