India's Hindu nationalists confident of victory as elections enter final stages

Even before India’s six-week general election has run its course, Hindu nationalists are confident the polls will result in a rare third term in office for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi. But the opposition says the incumbents will face stiff competition in the final two rounds of voting, which begin on Saturday.

With votes yet to be counted, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a coalition led by the BJP, says it is counting on a landslide victory in parliament’s 543-seat lower house.

“After the fifth phase of the polls, the NDA has already bagged 310 seats,” India’s Home Minister Amit Shah announced after more than 400 constituencies had voted in a process that began on 19 April.

Shah, a close ally of Prime Minister Modi, said the alliance expected to hold more than 400 seats by the time voters had cast their ballots in the sixth and seventh rounds of the polls, set for 25 May and 1 June.

Yet the opposition says the final two rounds could dash the BJP’s hopes.

“The strongholds of the BJP have shown a minimal turnout and a significant drop in voting figures,” said Shashi Tharoor, a prominent MP for main opposition party the Indian National Congress.

“It is not good news for the government. We are on a positive trajectory going into the last two phases,” Tharoor insisted at a press briefing this week.

Modi in the balance

A further slide could raise questions over Modi’s enduring appeal to voters after 10 years as prime minister.

In the fifth leg of the polls, held on Monday, turnout was down to 62 percent.

Read more on RFI English

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