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Modi’s party appears to be expanding on its majority.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of the most powerful and divisive leaders India has produced in decades, appeared easily headed for another five-year term, according to election returns so far.
The Election Commission reported that Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., was ahead in at least 300 parliamentary districts, far beyond the 272 seats it would need for a majority in the 543-seat Parliament. At this pace, the party would actually expand on its current majority — a development no one was predicting in recent months.
The main opposition Congress Party was ahead in 49 seats, according to Election Commission data.
Before the election, most analysts predicted that the B.J.P. would lose seats overall, mostly because of dissatisfaction with the economy.
But that was before tensions with Pakistan handed Mr. Modi an issue he could command. He campaigned heavily on national security and on a forceful foreign policy, and it’s now clear that played well among India’s 900 million registered voters.
Pakistan test-fires a missile as Modi rises.
As news of Mr. Modi’s impending win picked up in India, Pakistan’s powerful military establishment announced on Thursday that it had successfully test-fired a Shaheen II ballistic missile, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The two countries went to the brink of war this year after a terrorist attack killed Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir — in a surge of tensions that many political analysts believe helped Mr. Modi’s showing in the election.
But Pakistan is not the only one of the nuclear-armed neighbors to use missiles to make a point.
After the two countries’ showdown over Kashmir — and just two weeks before Indian elections were to begin — Mr. Modi announced that India had successfully used a missile to shoot down an old satellite. That test made it just the fourth country in the world to have that kind of antisatellite capability.
Modi supporters watch from the U.S. and cheer.
Hundreds of people with ties to India gathered in Edison, N. J., on Wednesday night to watch the initial election results trickle in, and celebrate a potential win for Mr. Modi, a leader whom many see as strengthening India’s image in the world.
The crowd, a mix of expatriates and American citizens, posed for selfies with a cardboard cutout of the prime minister, and cheered each time results favoring Mr. Modi’s B.J.P. were announced.
“There’s a more heightened interest this year,” said Krishna Reddy Anugula, 50, president of Overseas Friends of the B.J.P. The organization has about 4,000 members across the United States.
“People saw that this is a leader who is doing good for the country,” said Mr. Reddy, citing Mr. Modi’s economic proposals and pledges to improve the lives of the poor.
Indian-Americans — a population of about 4 million — cannot vote in the election unless they still retain their Indian citizenship. Then, too, citizens must be in India to cast their ballots.
Yet many Indians in America have sought to participate by organizing rallies, and calling friends and family members in India to encourage them to vote.
“Let’s elect them for five more years and see what they do,” Mr. Reddy said of the B.J.P.
Gandhi is struggling to keep his seat for Congress Party.
India’s politically powerful Gandhi family has represented Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh, in Parliament for decades. Rahul Gandhi, 48, who leads the Indian National Congress party, has personally held the seat since 2004.
That suddenly appears at risk. Early results indicate that he is running neck and neck with Smriti Irani, a B.J.P. candidate and former soap-opera star whom Mr. Gandhi defeated in 2014.
Ms. Irani is the textiles minister in Mr. Modi’s government. She has been an advocate for women’s rights, but tried to curb press freedoms during a brief stint as information minister. Recently, she has struck a populist tone, cultivating a glamorous image on Instagram, where she is frequently shown in locally made garments.
The B.J.P. has been campaigning intensely in Amethi, hoping to embarrass Mr. Gandhi. But even if he ultimately loses there, he will almost certainly remain in Parliament. Under India’s electoral system, candidates can run for multiple seats simultaneously, and Mr. Gandhi is also running for a seat from Wayanad, in Kerala State, and he is expected to win handily there.
Overall, Congress is expected to pick up more Parliament seats than it did in its poor showing in 2014. But that would still leave it hundreds of seats behind Mr. Modi’s B.J.P., and it appears the party will not be returning to its old glory anytime soon.
India’s stock market hits a record as results come in.
As the early results suggested a strong victory for Mr. Modi and the B.J.P., India’s stock market rose 2 percent to an all-time high.
Mr. Modi is viewed as good for business. He has simplified the tax system and cut down on corruption, and one of the signature achievements of his term was an overhaul of the country’s corporate bankruptcy system.
India’s stock market has been a bright spot in Asia, particularly as Chinese shares have suffered amid that country’s escalating trade war with the United States.
“For the markets, it’s like a vote of relief,” Jyoti Jaipuria, founder of Valentis Advisors, an investment advisory firm in Mumbai, said earlier this week, when exit polls showed that Mr. Modi’s party was likely to win again. “Politics is out of the way, and everybody can be back to fundamentals.”
Muslims fear Modi’s rise will ‘disempower’ them
The number of Muslims in Parliament is expected to fall to a historic low, a function of B.J.P’s dominance and antipathy to running Muslim candidates.
Since Mr. Modi and his Hindu nationalist supporters rose to power, Indian Muslims say violence against them has risen.
Before Thursday’s vote count, Muslims held just 24 seats in Parliament, about 4.4 percent of the total, and the fewest the community has held since 1952.
In Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest state and home to 43 million Muslims, not a Muslim single candidate was elected to the Indian Parliament. And the B.J.P. there did not field any Muslim candidates this year.
The party is led in the state by Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist who has been accused of organizing religious riots.
Aftab Syed, 33, a student at Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, said the election’s outcome was troubling.
“The very idea of keeping Muslims out of Parliament means you want to disempower them,” he said.
This is how India is counting 600 million votes.
In seven phases over 39 days, hundreds of millions of voters cast ballots nationwide at a million polling stations, spread across densely populated megacities and far-flung villages.
Turnout percentage also reached a record high, with more than 66 percent of eligible voters participating.
Though more than half a billion people cast ballots, there are just 1.63 million “control units,” the computerized brains of the electronic voting machines that are used to cast votes. The machines are toted across the country for use during each geographic phase of the election. Each machine records up to 2,000 votes at any given polling station.
A team of at least three Election Commission officials are now unsealing and inspecting each machine. If they conclude the machines have not been tampered with, they press a button marked “results,” which tabulates the votes.
The machines are audited in batches, and the results are released throughout the day as each batch is concluded.
The machines are each equipped with a printer that creates a paper trail and deposits a printout in a locked box. A small percentage of the secure boxes — about 5 percent — will be opened on Thursday and their contents checked against the computerized results. The time it takes to count the paper ballots is expected to delay the results by several hours.
For B.J.P. supporters, the celebration started early.
At B.J.P. headquarters in New Delhi, the mood was ebullient as the early returns suggested a victory for the Hindu nationalist party.
Men and women waved giant flags, blew conch shells, fired canisters containing bright blue powder and chanted, “Hail Modi! Hail Modi!”
In Delhi, the capital, and Mumbai, India’s largest city, party members prepared sweets to distribute to throngs of supporters.
At a sweet shop in Mumbai, a group of men wearing Modi masks spent two days to churn out 8,000 pounds worth of laddoos — soft, sweet balls made of chickpea flour and cashew nut paste.
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It’s tea and victory in Modi’s home district.
In Varanasi, the city Mr. Modi is contesting from, the mood was clear that he would handily win his Parliament seat. In the 2014 elections, Mr. Modi received about 580,000 votes, 300,000 more than his nearest opponent. This time, party members hope to see him win with a margin of at least 700,000 votes.
“He will win with 700,000 votes — easily,” said Vijay Yadav, 30, who along with his parents campaigned for Mr. Modi over the past month.
The city of temples is on the banks of the Ganges, a sacred site for Hindus. And the city doesn’t really sleep: Prayers at temples continue late into the night, and then again before dawn. The cremation pits, where bodies from across the country arrive, are fired up 24/7.
At tea stalls and lassi stores, and all along the Ganges, political discussions continued late into the night, then picked up again early Thursday morning.
Mohan Singh, 64, arrived on his bicycle at a small tea stall soon after dawn for his morning ritual: He read the newspaper front to back and had two cups of chai from small, disposable clay cups. Mr. Singh is a mechanic, but looks professorial with his graying hair and spectacles.
“It was all elections, each side saying they will win,” Mr. Singh said about the newspaper in hand. “But I think Modi will win.”
Less violence was reported than in past votes.
The Indian elections are a massive democratic feat. But things are never seamless, and this year the elections did include incidents of violence (though fewer than in previous years) and complaints about rigging, booth capturing and mishandling of electronic voting machines.
This week, around 500 masked men armed with sticks, machetes and rifles attacked a group of polling officials in the remote northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian news media reported that the assailants belonged to a party affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The attackers fired at the officials. It is unclear if anybody was injured.
In Faridabad, near Delhi, an election official was arrested after video surfaced on social media of him trying to influence voters. In Meerut, a northern Indian city, a group of men set up tents and passed out binoculars to keep an round-the-clock watch on voting machine storage rooms. India’s Election Commission said it had seized nearly $500 million worth of cash, drugs, liquor and precious metals this election, far more than in 2014.
— Reporting was contributed by Jeffrey Gettleman, Vindu Goel, Russell Goldman, Hari Kumar, Mujib Mashal, Suhasini Raj, Kai Schultz, Sameer Yasir, Ayesha Venkataraman, and Douglas Schorzman.