NEW DELHI – Narendra Modi, India's charismatic but polarizing prime minister, was headed Thursday for a landslide election victory, propelling his Hindu nationalist party to back-to-back majorities in parliament for the first time in decades.
With most of the votes counted, Modi's stunning re-election mirrored a global trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil to Italy, often on a platform promoting a tough stand on national security, protectionist trade policies and putting up barriers to immigration.
The victory in India was widely seen as a referendum on Modi's Hindu-first politics that some observers say have bred intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities, as well as his muscular stance on neighboring Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year.
“India wins yet again,” Modi exulted in a tweet.
Election Commission data showed Modi's Bharatia Janata winning 158 seats and in the lead for 145 more, which would catapult the party well beyond the simple majority in the 545-member lower house of Parliament required to govern.
The results spelled another nail in the coffin of the main opposition Indian National Congress party, which picked up 31 seats and was leading in 21 other contests. Its president, and the scion of modern India's most powerful political dynasty, personally conceded his seat to BJP. The final tally was not expected until today.
Addressing thousands of party workers celebrating the outcome, Modi urged the world to “recognize India's democratic power.” He attributed the party's showing to his policies aimed at improving the lot of the nation's poor, including free medical insurance, relief for distressed farmers and a highly popular program to build 100 million toilets in a nation where basic sanitation remains a major problem.