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Modiís BJP leads in early India vote count

Modiís BJP leads in early India vote count

[May 23 2019]

The BJP appears to be coasting to victory

Soutik Biswas
India Correspondent

If early leads are to be believed, Narendra Modiís BJP-led NDA appears to be coasting to a second successive term in power. Mr Modiís BJP is set for a majority of its own.

The party is likely to make up for the modest losses in the bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh with ample gains in the eastern seaboard states of West Bengal and Orissa.

Rahul Gandhiís Congress should be unhappy with the way things are going and as a commentator said, ďbegin preparing for the next electionsĒ.

The see-saw battle between Mr Gandhi and BJPís Smriti Irani in the formerís pocket borough of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh is turning out to be biggest surprise so far. If Mr Gandhi loses the seat, it will be the biggest upset of this election and make it difficult for him to lead the Congress party

Trends show the BJP lead is growing

All eyes on West Bengal

Early trends show that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is leading in the eastern state of West Bengal, where the BJP has been trying hard to make inroads.

But exit polls predicted that the BJP would win more seats in West Bengal this time than it did in 2014 - it won just two then. The TMC won 34 of the 42 seats.

And some trends show them leading in as many as 10 seats.

TMC, led by the state's chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has been locked in a fierce battle with the BJP since the first day of campaigning.

Workers from the two parties have often clashed and West Bengal has seen some of the worst poll-related violence so far, says our correspondent Salman Ravi. Additional security forces have been deployed and police have even clamped down in some areas by stopping crowds from assembling.

West Bengal was a Communist party bastion until 2011, when Ms Banerjee swept to power. Now the communists are largely on the margins.

This time, the contest is between TMC and BJP.

Bollywood star Sunny Deol is not wowing this poll box office

This election could well be an anti-climatic ending for Sunny Deol - the 62-year-old Bollywood actor who contested from Gurdaspur, a constituency in Punjab that is just 10km from Indiaís border with Pakistan.

Heís a political novice - and has admitted as much.

ďI donít know much about politics but I am a patriot,Ē he told a rally in April.

Deol has certainly lived up to that in his films - especially in Gadar, a 2001 blockbuster in which he plays a truck driver who takes on the Pakistani state during the Indian partition in 1947.

The movieís blustering rhetoric and over-the-top fight scenes (in one, Deol wrenches a hand pump out of the ground and beats up Pakistanis with it) made it both a cult hit and the subject of many spoofs.

One of Deolís most famous lines from the movie, ďHindustan zindabad tha, hai aur rahega!Ē (Long live India then, now and always!) was even played on repeat during his campaign.

Itís unclear why the BJP picked Deol to run against Sunil Jakhar, a veteran Congress leader and current MP.

Mr Jakhar has underlined Deolís lack of political experience - he told voters that the actor may be good at singing, dancing and uprooting hand pumps, but knew nothing about Gurdaspur or its people.

The prime minister is building his lead in Varanasi

It's still very early, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is building his lead in Varanasi - the ancient, holy Hindu city in Uttar Pradesh where his seat is.

Our India correspondent Yogita Limaye says: "On the banks of the river Ganges in the city, a place considered most sacred for Hindus, I met many people who had voted for the PM. They said he was their choice because they saw him as a strong leader. I asked if they thought the better days he had promised had arrived. Many said they never expected their lives to improve overnight, but thought he was taking steps in the right direction."

He won here with a huge margin of more than 300,000 votes in 2014.

This was a hugely symbolic move as he called himself the son of the river Ganga and the land of Uttar Pradesh.

The river - heavily polluted over the past few decades - is revered by Hindus. His promises - still to be delivered - to clean it up struck a chord with the voters.

It's not just Varanasi though - this entire election is seen as a referendum on Mr Modi, a polarising figure adored by many but also blamed for increasing divisions in India.

BJP Leads as early trends trickle

Early trends show that the BJP is ahead in at least 140 seats.

And some shocking results could be in the offing.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi is trailing in Amethi against federal minister Smriti Irani.

And some are going on along expected lines.

Home Minister Rajnath SIngh is leading from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh while Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari is leading in Nagpur.

Please stay with us for more updates on key seats.

The mood at Congress headquarters

Trends across local media shows the main opposition Congress party is trailing far behind the governing BJP.
Our correspondent is at the opposition party's headquarters in capital Delhi and this is the scene outside:

India's 'student rebel' is confident of victory

The mother of Kanhaiya Kumar, the student leader who shot to fame in 2016 when he was arrested and charged with sedition, is already cooking a victory breakfast, says our correspondent Vineet Khare, who is at his constituency of Begusarai in the eastern state of Bihar.

Mr Kumar is from the Communist Party of India (CPI), which has become less important over the years but Begusarai has long been a Communist stronghold - it was even called the "Leningrad of Bihar".

Mr Kumar, who grew up here, quickly became a symbol of the fight against the Hindu nationalist politics of the BJP.

To read more about Mr Kumarís campaign and his chances, check out this profile on him by Neha Thirani Bagri.

Heavy security at a counting centre in bellwether state

There is a massive security presence at a counting centre in Lucknow - a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which elects the maximum number of 80 MPs to the Indian parliament.

Early trends in the state so far show that Rajnath Singh, India's home minister, is leading there.

BJP's controversial Pragya Thakur leads

The BJP's controversial leader Sadhvi Pragya Thakur is leading from the Bhopal constituency in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, local media reports.

Just a reminder that these are early trends as only postal ballots are being counted at the moment.

Ms Thakur sparked a controversy when she said Nathuram Godse - Mahatma Gandhi's killer - was a patriot.

She later apologised after facing criticism from her own party and others.

Her candidacy also caused outrage as she is an accused of involvement in a blast that killed seven people and injured 100 others in the mainly Muslim town of Malegaon in 2006. Ms Thakur denies all charges against her.

The 'watchman' prime minister

The campaignís biggest buzzword has probably been ďchowkidarĒ or watchman.

Initially, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the term in speeches to describe himself as a watchmen - someone who protects and serves the people.

But in April, he upped the ante by changing his Twitter handle to "Chowkidar Narendra Modi" - prompting other senior members of his cabinet and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to do the same.

And at one point, he even addressed a crowd of 250,000 watchmen across the country through an audio link. The "chowkidar" theme proverbially broke the internet with memes, tweets and posts.

And even supporters of the BJP started changing their social media handles and pictures to include the word.

Opposition parties couldnít avoid the word either - even when Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, ďChowkidar Chor Hain" (The watchman is a thief), he was essentially playing by Mr Modi's rules.

We wondered what real security guards thought of this chowkidar business, so we asked them.

Indian elections: Why you should care

With 900 million eligible voters, India's election is being closely watched around the world.

The BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan explains why everyone should care.

Early results are trickling in...

And it looks like the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is taking a tentative lead.

Counting starts in Kashmir... but it shouldn't take long

The counting of votes has begun in Indian-administered Kashmir. It shouldn't take too long - the state had the worst turnout this election.

Just 29.39% of eligible voters actually turned up to cast their ballots.

Very early leads for Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad

Very early trends show that the leader of India's main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, is leading in Wayanad in the southern state of Kerala.

Mr Gandhi raised a lot of eyebrows when he decided he would stand there, in addition to his usual seat of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

His critics said that it showed he was afraid of losing in Amethi - his margin of victory in 2014 over the BJPís Smriti Irani was seen as being too close. But others say this could actually be part of a wider strategy to rejuvenate the party's base in the south, which has been dominated by regional parties for decades.

Wayanad is considered a "safe seat" for Congress.

BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi says that the Congress already has a strong presence in the Wayanad constituency, adding that this is partly due to the high percentage of Muslims and Christians in the region

Don't forget... it's all about Uttar Pradesh

The northern state elects the maximum number of 80 MPs and that carries plenty of heft in the 545-seat Lok Sabha. Eight of Indiaís 14 prime ministers have also come from UP.

In 2014, Mr Modiís BJP swept UP, winning 71 seats, and two other constituencies went to an ally. He is, obviously, hoping for an encore.

Voters queue at a polling station in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month

But this time, itís unlikely to be a cake walk - heís being challenged by a grand alliance of regional parties that has seen the coming together of former bitter foes Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav as well as some smaller players.

Even the exit polls have not been able to agree on what the outcome in the state could be. The predictions have wildly varied - some have given the party 50 seats, while others have said it will only win around 20.

The market that's a counting centre today

The BBC's India correspondent Yogita Limaye is in Varanasi - the ancient city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh from where Narendra Modi stood.

This picture is of a food grains market in the city that has been transformed into a counting centre for today.

The chequered history of India's Electronic Voting Machines

Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs have been in use for years in India. They were used for the first time, on an experimental basis, in 50 polling booths in the Paravur assembly constituency in Kerala in 1982.

Their use was then challenged in the Supreme Court as they weren't recognised as an official voting method under Indian law. Two years later, in 1984, a re-poll was ordered in Paravur, using paper ballots.

In 1982-83, the machines were used in 10 other seats across seven states and union territories. These elections weren't questioned.

In 1988, after it became legal to use the machines, EVMs were used in 16 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi.

After a large feedback study which concluded that voters trusted the machines, the EVMs were used in more than 680,000 polling stations in the 2004 elections.

There have been allegations that the EVMs can be hacked, usually by losing parties. Election authorities have maintained that the machines are robust and tamper proof.

India used more than 1.7 million machines in the 2019 election.

Postal ballots

The counting has begun and postal ballots are being counted first. It's largely security personnel deployed in different parts of the country who are allowed to vote via postal ballots.

Indian media show the BJP ahead in the postal count - but bear in mind this is just a fraction of the overall result and the numbers are likely to change.

Rahul Gandhi: The 'reluctant prince'

India's main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was all but written off after his crushing defeat in the last elections.

But he has energised a struggling Congress party and increasingly set the agenda with a combative campaign.

He has challenged Mr Modi and the BJP on a number of issues including unemployment, the economy and a controversial deal to acquire fighter jets from France.

He has also been much more present on the campaign trail, even going so far as to stand for election in two seats this time. Candidates can do that in India - if they win both, they have to choose which to represent and the other goes to a by-election.

See voting trends and leads in real time

The counting of votes has just begun, but we are expected to see early leads across many constituencies.

This is because the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are counted in batches, and results released in phases.

The media report the results in real time as they emerge

Why the final results could be delayed

Each of India's 1.7 million voting machines record a maximum of 2,000 votes (the number of registered voters at any given polling booth does not exceed 1,500) and 64 candidates.

They save time: results from machines in a single parliamentary seat are available within three to five hours, down from 40 hours when ballots were counted manually. The machines have also eliminated "invalid" votes and led to huge cost savings.

Each of India's 1.7 million voting machines record a maximum of 2,000 votes

When a vote is cast, a paper slip is printed containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate and remains exposed through a transparent window for seven seconds. After this, this slip automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box.

Authorities have decided to tally the paper trail slips and compare them with the electronic result provided by the machine in at least 5% of booths in assembly seats. This could lead to a delay in the declaration of final results.

Congress party praying for a win

The main opposition Congress party is praying for a win - literally.

Party workers are offering prayers outside the official headquarters in the capital Delhi

Indiaís six-week election in two minutes

The results of Indiaís marathon election will be released today. If you havenít been paying much attention, hereís what you've missed.

This time itís all about one man...

And that man is Narendra Modi.

Indiaís 68-year-old prime minister led his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide win in 2014 and is hoping to repeat that performance this time around.

The BJP-led alliance needs to win 272 seats to stay in power on its own in the 543-seat parliament.

He is up against powerful regional parties and a resurgent Congress, the main opposition party. But the election is really about Mr Modi - analysts believe it will largely be a referendum on his leadership.

And despite a patchy record in delivering on his 2014 campaign promises, he remains the BJPís main vote-getter, says our correspondent Soutik Biswas.

Mr Modi is a polarising figure. His supporters hail him as a strongman who gives India the decisive leadership they believe it needs, but his critics accuse him of being a hardliner who has done little to protect minorities.

If you want to understand why he is seen as divisive,

Thirty minutes to go...

before the first results start coming in. But that has not stopped enthusiastic supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party from starting the celebrations....

Meanwhile our correspondents are already feeling the pressure!

How do you count hundreds of millions of votes?

India had 900 million eligible voters and though all of them didnít participate in this election, thereís still a LOT of votes to be counted!

So how does it work?

First, the Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs which were used to cast votes are brought out from secure rooms and unsealed. They are then individually inspected by counting staff and agents. The process is overseen by a returning officer.

When he or she is satisfied a voting machine has not been tampered with, they press a button marked "result".

The officer assesses the total number of votes recorded against each candidate displayed on the control unit. If satisfied, he or she will sign the results sheet and share it with the election commission.

The EVMs are counted in batches, and results released in phases. The media report the results in real time as they emerge. Final results on the Election Commission website come later.

All the machines now have printers producing voter-verifiable paper audit trails to ensure transparency.

The authorities will tally the paper trail slips - which are kept in separate sealed boxes - and compare them with the electronic result provided by the machine in at least 5% of polling booths. Election officials say this process could delay final results by a couple of hours.

And here's a snapshot of the Congress office

Our correspondent Zubair Ahmed is at the picturesque headquarters of India's main opposition Congress party in Delhi.

The ruling party office is a hive of activity...

Outside a counting centre in a big ticket state

BBC Hindi correspondent Salman Ravi is outside a counting centre in the eastern city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).

The city is the capital of West Bengal state, which sends the third highest number of MPs (42) to parliament.

The current chief minister is Mamata Banerjee, a hugely popular and fiery female leader whose relationship with Prime Minister Modi has become increasingly testy.

It looks like the counting, set to begin at 08:00 IST (02:30 GST), will take place under tight security.

Will the exit polls prove right?

Will the exit polls which all saw easy wins for the the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) prove right today?

The highest poll prediction for the alliance was 365 seats, and the lowest 242. An average of all exit polls gave the NDA 295 seats.

Any party or coalition needs at least 272 seats to secure a majority in parliament and form a government

However, analysts warn exit polls have often been wrong in the past.

The BJP has of course, welcomed the prediction and many of its leaders congratulated party workers' efforts on social media.

However, many opposition parties dismissed the polls outright, to which the BJP replied, "accept defeat with grace".

Your guide to the Indian election

If you want to understand whatís going on - like whoís competing and the key issues at stake - check out our really simple guide to the Indian election.

For something a bit more in-depth, try this explainer by our India correspondent Soutik Biswas.

And if you want to know more about the voting process, check out this video:

A report from the heartland of Indian politics

Geeta Pandey

Editor, women and social affairs India

Iím in Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh - the "bellwether state" of Indian politics.

Itís believed that whoever wins Indiaís most populous state, wins the country. Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to parliament, more than any other state.

Also eight of India's 14 prime ministers are from here.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is originally from Gujarat, also chose Uttar Pradesh to make his debut as an MP in 2014 when he stood for election in the ancient city of Varanasi.

The BJPís performance in the state then was nothing less than dramatic - it won 73 seats.

The question everyone is asking now is can they replicate that performance this time around as well?

The big day is here!

Six weeks, 677 parties and 8,049 candidates in 543 constituencies, 900 million eligible voters... this is the largest election the world has ever seen.

And it all comes down to today.

The counting of hundreds of millions of votes begins at 08:00 local time [02:30 GMT] and in a few hours we will find out who is going to form Indiaís next government.

We will be bringing you reports from our correspondents around the country, expert analysis, video and much more. Stay tuned!

Courtesy: BBC

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