India’s massive elections concluded this week. The counting of votes began at 8 a.m. local time today and final results are expected thereafter.
According to the Election Commission of India’s website, the BJP was leading.
More than 900 million people were eligible to vote in the polls that stretched over seven phases from April 11 to May 19. A record number of people had turned up to cast their ballot and voter participation was more than 67%, the Election Commission said, making it the largest-ever democratic exercise.
Exit polls have predicted a clear majority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition, the National Democratic Alliance. According to local media, it is expected to win nearly, or above, 300 seats in India’s lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha as it is known. Out of a total of 545 seats in parliament, 543 were being contested and a party, or a coalition, needs at least 272 votes to form a government.
How Modi and the BJP fare at the polls will factor into his policy priorities. If he comes back with a bigger mandate than what he had in the 2014 elections, it would be seen as an endorsement of his national security-focused campaign, according to Eurasia Group’s South Asia analyst, Akhil Bery. That, he added, would likely affect Modi’s foreign policy toward India’s arch rival Pakistan.
Earlier this year, BJP’s efforts to return to power looked to be on shaky grounds, especially after the party lost three key state elections in December. People across India have had mixed reactions to some of Modi’s landmark economic reforms and policies. They include the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax and demonetization — where the government unexpectedly withdrew all its 500 and 1,000-rupee notes, and replaced them with 500 and 2,000-rupee denomination currencies.
Then, a terrorist attack in Kashmir, and India’s subsequent response to it, shifted the momentum in Modi’s favor.
“That reinvigorated the campaign and took the attention away from, quite frankly, the not-so-great economic record,” Bery told CNBC’s “Squawk Box ” on Thursday.
“You had a slowing economy and also the leaked jobs report, which showed that India’s unemployment rate was at a 45-year high. By shifting to national security, Prime Minister Modi was able to take attention away from those negative stories, ” he added.
Still, Modi’s government will likely have its work cut out: India’s economy is slowing down, its shadow banking sector is in crisis, credit lending from banks is still relatively weak. More needs to be done to spur private investments so that the country doesn’t only rely on consumption to grow, according to analysts.
The Nifty 50 was up 1.39% in early trade.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.