Riding on a massive Modi wave sweeping through most parts of India, the BJP was set to return to power as it led in 295 seats while the Congress trailed far behind with 50, according to trends released on Thursday by the Election Commission for all 542 seats that went to polls.
With its allies, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance could win 343 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In the last election, the NDA had 336 seats while BJP accounted for 282.
In the politically critical state of Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party had posed a stiff challenge, the BJP was leading in 58 of the 80 seats at stake. The SP was ahead in eight and BSP in 11. The Congress Party was ahead only in one. Even, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was in a neck-and-neck race in Amethi with BJP's Smriti Irani.
The results are a resounding endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity, his government's achievements in the last five years and his campaign, which centred around national security and nationalism. He also relentlessly attacked the Congress Party for what he called its dynastic legacy, and blamed it for the country's woes. The opposition had criticised the BJP campaign as divisive and polarising.
"The people on the ground are not buying the narrative of the opposition that people are under threat. People are doing well that they are looking forward to the next government of Narendra Modi. We have to realise that Modi's government inherited a very weak economy and he done very phenomenal job (in the last five year)," BJP spokesman Amit Malviya said.
The Modi wave not only swept through the Hindi heartland and Gujarat, as was expected, but also rippled through West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana appeared untouched.
In Odisha, the BJP was ahead in nine of the 21 seats and Biju Janata Dal was ahead in 11. In 2014, the BJD had won 20 seats and BJP took one. In Telangana, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti was leading in nine seats, the BJP in four and Congress in three. BJP ally, Janata Dal (United) was ahead in 16 seats.
As votes for the seven-phase Parliamentary polls were counted on Thursday, the Trinamool Congress Party was leading in 25 of 42 seats of West Bengal while BJP was ahead in 15, up from two it held in 2014. The Left was wiped out in the state, once its citadel.
The DMK was ahead in 20 seats in Tamil Nadu.
As the trends came in, pointing to another tenure of Modi as prime minister, celebrations broke out in the BJP's party offices across the country with people dancing to the sounds of drums.
The trends of the ruling party's leads were in sync with the exit polls, most of which predicted that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would be on course to retain power for a second term.
In 2014, the BJP won 282 seats, leaving the Congress with an all-time low of 44 seats against the 206 it won in 2009.
The counting exercise is on in over 4,000 counting centres amid concerns raised by opposition parties over alleged tampering of EVMs. They have asked the Election Commission to ensure transparency in counting. Election Commission officials said results are expected only by late evening. The voting was staggered between April 11 and May 19 in which around 67 per cent of the nearly 900 million eligible people exercised their franchise to elect 542 members of the Lok Sabha from a total of 8,049 contestants.
For the first time in Lok Sabha polls, the EC is tallying the vote count on Electronic Voting Machines with voter verified paper audit trail slips in five polling stations in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency.
It will effectively mean that out of nearly 10.3 lakh polling stations, the EVM-VVPAT matching will take place in 20,600 such stations. In case of a mismatch, the results based on paper slip count will be considered as final.
Out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, elections were held in 542 constituencies as the EC had cancelled polls to the Vellore constituency on the ground of excessive use of money power.
The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday alerted all state chief secretaries and directors general of police about possibility of eruption of violence in different parts of the country during counting of votes.
"This is in the wake of calls given and statements made in various quarters for inciting violence and causing disruption on the day of counting of votes," a Home Ministry statement said.