Vote counting has begun in India\’s national parliamentary elections, as partial results and exit polls suggested victory for the Hindu nationalist opposition party.
Early election results Friday put the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, on course to win the most seats in parliament.
The ruling Congress Party, which has been in power for a decade, has been hit by a series of high profile corruption scandals, high inflation and lagging economic growth.
India\’s ruling Congress party conceded defeat Friday. Congress party spokesmen told reporters the party had accepted that the country decided to vote against them.
The alliance led by Modi\’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was winning the vote count in 325 parliamentary seats, far more than the majority of 272 required to rule. Even on its own, the BJP was ahead in 273 seats.
The United Progressive Alliance led by the Gandhi family\’s Congress party, which has ruled India for the last decade, was leading in just 67 seats – its worst-ever showing. The party has been hit by a series of high profile corruption scandals, high inflation and lagging economic growth.
India\’s five-week election wrapped up Monday, with the final polls closing in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and the eastern states of West Bengal and Bihar.
Controversy has swirled around the BJP prime ministerial candidate since 2002, when he led India\’s Gujarat state. Hindu-Muslim rioting there killed more than 1,000 people. India\’s Supreme Court cleared Modi of charges that he incited the violence.
The controversy appears to have faded for many voters. Modi has since cast himself as an able administrator and decisive leader who has energized the economy of Gujarat and holds the promise of doing the same for the rest of the country.
The election pits Modi\’s BJP against the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, the latest member of India\’s influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
India\’s new anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (Common Man\’s) Party, which secured a spectacular result in local polls in Delhi last autumn, is challenging the main parties.
Voter turnout was a record 66.38%, beating the previous 1984 poll record.
About 551 million votes from more than 1.8 million electronic voting machines are being tallied to determine the fortunes of 8,251 candidates. Voting began last month.
Voting was held in nine phases for security and logistical reasons. With 814 million eligible voters, it is the world\’s biggest exercise in democracy.
The Election Commission said counting would be held at 989 centres and more than 1,100 observers would be deployed to supervise the process. Reports say hundreds of thousands of security personnel will be deployed to ensure it happens peacefully.