(Fixes day and stage of election, description of Ahmedabad)
By Aditi Shah
VADODARA, India, April 30 India's Hindu
nationalist Narendra Modi looked triumphant after voting on
Wednesday in the eighth stage of the world's largest election,
but the man tipped to be the next prime minister is still not
assured of winning an outright majority.
Some 139 million people were registered in the 89
constituencies that polled on Wednesday in a race pitting Modi
against the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty-led ruling Congress party and a
pantheon of satraps. Results are due on May 16.
Casting his vote in his home state of Gujarat, the leader
whose pro-business policies have delighted investors brandished
his party's lotus symbol and taunted Congress heavyweights for
shying away from the fight.
"The prime minister himself is not fighting the election.
The finance minister is not fighting the election. All its top
leaders have run away," Modi said to cheers from a large crowd
gathered at the polling station in the state's largest city,
He snapped a "selfie" and posted the photograph on Twitter.
It is unusual for Indian politicians to give speeches after
voting and Modi's opponents complained to the election
commission that his use of the party symbol broke electoral
Modi, who is standing in both the Gujarat town of Vadodara
and the holy city of Varanasi, has shaken up Indian politics
with an innovative campaign that has combined a massive social
media outreach with up to five rallies a day. The 63-year-old
has even appeared as a hologram campaigning in remote hamlets.
Opinion polls give a coalition led by Modi's Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) a strong lead and predict the worst ever
result for the ruling party, which led India to independence
from Britain in 1947 and has dominated politics ever since.
But most surveys predict the BJP will fall short of the 272
seats needed for a parliamentary majority, meaning it will need
to find allies. The size of the shortfall will determine whether
a Modi government can pass free market reforms aimed at reviving
the economy, or be constrained by protectionist allies.
"The BJP is unlikely to win an outright majority," said Nida
Ali of Oxford Economics in a research note. "Given the deep
roots of India's current predicament and the type of reforms
required to turn the economy around, investors' optimism about
an economic bounce-back appears unfounded."
Indian shares rose 6.5 percent in 2014 through
Tuesday, outperforming the 0.5 percent drop in the MSCI emerging
equities index, on expectations the industry-friendly
BJP would score an emphatic win. But shares have cooled in
recent sessions, as traders turn cautious ahead of election
India is sometimes described as a collection of countries
united mainly by a common currency. The results of its elections
are notoriously hard to predict, with block voting by caste and
religion. Dramatic last-minute swings can confound experts, with
opinion polls getting the result wrong in 2004.
In a reminder of the difficulties in converting Modi's
popularity into seats, Arun Jaitley, a possible future finance
minister, risks losing a contest in the state of Punjab over
anger with the state government headed by a BJP ally.
The BJP's president, Rajnath Singh also faces a tough fight
in Lucknow, the capital of the mammoth state of Uttar Pradesh,
where voters lined up at schools despite the blazing summer sun
The election remains Modi's to lose, however, and in recent
days several senior Congress leaders have appeared to concede
that prospects are gloomy. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said
on Monday "crucial mistakes" were made as public anger rose
against corruption in 2010 and 2011.
The Congress party has governed for two terms and oversaw
some of India's fastest ever growth, but lost popularity as the
economy slowed and rampant graft was uncovered.
Chidambaram himself chose not to contest this election, a
decision seen by many as a sign of weakness. A top adviser to
Congress president Sonia Gandhi told the Times of India on
Monday that the party would consider backing a non-BJP coalition
led by a different party to stop Modi.
The party has since distanced itself from the comments.
"The Congress party and its allies will form the next
government at the centre," said Shakeel Ahmed, a party general
But Congress has fought a lacklustre campaign so far, led by
Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of India's first prime minister
Jawaharlal Nehru. Gandhi's mother Sonia has also been a
prominent campaigner, as has his sister. Some party leaders have
even hinted a spell in opposition would be welcomed.
Modi wants to break the hold of the dynasty on Indian
politics once and for all. He appealed to voters to put a strong
government in place.
"The voting that has happened has achieved two things. One,
the mother-son government is gone ... Second, a new government
with a strong foundation will be in place," he said on
(Additional reporting by Sruthi Gottipati, Manoj Kumar, Rajesh
Kumar Singh and Malini Menon in NEW DELHI and Sharat Pradhan in
LUCKNOW; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Douglas
Busvine and Michael Perry)