Narendra Modi claims victory in Indian election

Votes are still being counted as the six-week election comes to a close.

May 23, 2019, 11:27 AM

LONDON -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed victory in the country's general election on Thursday, as early vote counts showed his Bharatiya Janata Party on course for a significant win.

Early data from the nation's Electoral Commission showed the BJP led in contests for 269 of the 542 seats in Parliament, while its rival party, the Indian National Congress, was winning just 56.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah gesture as they celebrate the victory in India's general elections, in New Delhi on May 23, 2019.
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"Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!" Modi wrote in announcing his victory on Twitter.

More than 900 million people were eligible to vote in the mammoth six-week election, casting their votes on approximately 40 million electronic voting machines, according to the Associated Press.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Modi on his election win, saying he was looking forward to "working with him for peace, progress and prosperity."

Although tensions between India and Pakistan in the disputed region of Kashmir dominated the build-up to the election, Modi's victory could lead to a new dialogue between the two countries, according to Chatham House senior research fellow Dr. Gareth Price.

An Indian voter looks on as he casts his vote at a polling booth in a village on the outskirts of Amritsar on May 19, 2019, during the 7th and final phase of India's general election.
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"Despite a large part of the BJP campaign being predicated on projecting strength against Pakistan, ironically over the next few months – terrorist attacks notwithstanding – one of the occasional windows of opportunity for talks with Pakistan has opened up," Price told ABC News. "Political insecurity in one or both countries has undermined previous attempts at rapprochement. For now, at least, both governments have the legitimacy to engage with the other.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters celebrate BJP's potential win as votes are counted for the Lok Sabha election in Bangalore, India, May 23, 2019.
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Modi's projection of a strong Hindu identity for India, as well as emphasis on economic growth, played a crucial role in his victory, Price said. But Price said this could end up being problematic.

“The BJP’s narrative clearly resonated with voters across northern India," he told ABC News. "That is that India should be strong economically and militarily and proud of its Hindu-ness. This has implications for minorities, in particular Muslims. However, some of the policies mooted by the BJP for electoral purposes may come back to haunt it -- in particular, the National Citizens Register, which, if followed through, could create millions of stateless people.”