New Delhi, India – Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on course to a landslide victory in the Indian elections and is set to return to power.

The BJP, which ran a presidential-style campaign with Modi as its mascot and based its campaign on a hardline Hindu agenda, won 208 seats and was leading on 95 seats out of the 542 seats it contested.

The party has improved its performance compared with the 2014 elections when it won 282 seats.

“It is not Modi’s victory, but a win of people’s hope and aspirations,” Modi said, addressing supporters at party headquarters in New Delhi.

“Whatever happened in these elections is in the past, we have to look ahead. We have to take everyone forward, including our staunchest opponents.”

The return of the right-wing party on Thursday, with a bigger mandate, has caused concern among the country’s Muslim community, who suffered attacks by Hindu vigilante groups over the past five years.

Although widespread agrarian distress and record levels of unemployment had put pressure on the BJP before the vote, Modi successfully steered the campaign away from these issues, harnessing rising tensions with Pakistan to focus on national security and foreign policy and his party’s vote share increased by more than 10 percentage points.

Supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party celebrate after the election results in New Delhi
Supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate after the election results in New Delhi [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

A poignant scene

The pall of gloom was palpable in some of New Delhi’s Muslim neighbourhoods such as Jamia Nagar and Batla House.

By the time Al Jazeera reached the area, at around noon, the general trend of the results was clear, people could be seen huddled in groups discussing the results with trepidation.

A poignant scene played out at an apparel shop in Jamia Nagar, owned by 74-year-old Rahmat Hussain. In the shop a crowd was gathered to watch the results on Hussain’s TV.

When it became clear that the opposition was nowhere close to challenging the BJP, he switched off the TV and said, “it’s all over”.

Mohammad Ansari, who owns a meat shop in Batla House, said: “This result shows that our Hindu brothers cutting across caste lines, even the Dalits, have voted for the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ [nation] project of the BJP. If this is not a clear message of hate against Muslims, what is?”

In the lead-up to the results, the opposition’s hopes were pinned on a good showing in states such as Bengal in the east and the Hindi-speaking heartland states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

But these were the states where the BJP performed exceedingly well and dashed the opposition’s plans.


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