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Modi returns to power with thumping majority

Indian electorates have handed down the Hindu nationalists Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi a thumping majority to return to power.

In a landslide victory, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has returned to power registering a landslide victory in the Indian elections.

The BJP, which ran a presidential-style campaign with Modi as its mascot and based its campaign on a hardline Hindu agenda, won 302 seats and was leading on one seat out of the 542 seats up for grabs on Thursday.

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 to power with a bigger mandate has caused concern among the country’s Muslim community, which 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.

The biggest upset was arguably in West Bengal where the right-wing party has never had a significant presence in the past and was fighting against the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, which runs the state government.

Weathering a spirited fight led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the BJP won 18 seats in the state, which is significantly more than the two seats it won in 2014.

In Uttar Pradesh where archrivals Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) came together to counter the Modi wave, the BJP still managed to win 64 of 80 parliamentary seats.

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