Narendra Modi and the BJP's third win is historic, but diminished numbers have left the party sombre spirits

The cheers and chants of hundreds of party workers broke out when Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked through the gates of the BJP office earlier today.

He had just won a historic third term in the world's largest ever democratic exercise - but this time with diminished numbers that fell short of an outright majority.

His victory lap at party headquarters betrayed no disappointment on his part, as he hailed the victory as a turning point in Indian politics.

Addressing the party workers Modi said: "Your affection, your love, for this blessing, I am indebted to all citizens.

"Today is an auspicious day. On this blessed day, NDA [National Democratic Alliance] is certain to form the third consecutive government. We all are very grateful to members of public.

"The people have expressed full confidence in BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and NDA. Today's success is a victory for the world's largest democracy."

When I covered the 2019 election results there was a carnival-like atmosphere in this place.

Back then, hundreds of party workers gathered to celebrate to the sound of drums and the chanting of Modi's name. Sweets were distributed freely and people danced with gay abandon.

Now the mood was sombre. The landslide victory the party members had been expecting had eluded them.

Vikas Nag, a BJP member, told Sky News: "I'm not too happy or satisfied with the result, but after a 10-year tenure and anti-incumbency, Modi is still coming to power for the third time.

"This would have been better had the BJP secured 272 seats on its own. But it will be a coalition government now with dependency on coalition partners."

A few miles away at Congress party offices there were scenes of jubilation. The opposition party have more than doubled the numbers from the previous election and now lead an effective coalition that can challenge Modi.

'This is Modi's political and moral defeat'

Congress Party president Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters: "The public did not give an absolute majority to any one party.

"Especially the ruling party BJP, who asked for votes in the name of one person and one face. Now it has become clear that the mandate has gone against Modi. This is his political and moral defeat."

Leading the charge this time was Rahul Gandhi.

As he arrived at headquarters with his sister Priyanka Gandhi, there were loud chants of "Here comes the Lion" by hundreds of party workers.

"I'm extremely proud of the people of India," the 53-year-old told reporters. "I'm extremely proud of the people who have resisted this onslaught on the constitution.

Gandhi praise for the poor

He then raised a book entitled The Constitution Of India and said: "And in the end, I would say, to save this [the book], the poorest of this country have done this."

These elections have rejuvenated the grand old party that had been weakened over the last 10 years.

Congress supporter Vaishnav told Sky News: "I've been waiting for this day for a quite a while.

"It seemed impossible, it's great there are no words to describe this moment. People in the last three days would not have believed this was coming."

Polarising leader

Undoubtedly, Modi is the most popular Indian politician and is both loved and loathed by the public.

An intensely polarising figure, he has dominated the political space for over a decade and has changed the landscape of politics and society forever.

Read more: Who is Modi? A history-making leader with god-like status - and fierce critics

The 73-year-old's powerful mix of religious identity and nationalism has culminated in a perception of a Hindu India.

A master orator, his messaging and carefully cultivated image has made Modi an undisputed leader representing a resurgent Hindu nation that is taking centre stage and is subservient to no-one.

He is never afraid to show off his religious identity - a trait most Indians politicians would baulk at. His 10 years has been marked by the rise of Hindu nationalism and right-wing organisations that threaten the secular fabric of the country.

There have been episodes such as the lynching of Muslim men for allegedly trading in cow meat, the "love jihad" conspiracy theory and the bulldozing of homes belonging to Muslims.

There have also been allegations of state governments ruled by his party looking the other way when violence on minorities has been perpetrated by right-wing Hindu mobs.

And Modi's silence has been deafening.

Inequality at a record high

Modi likes to boast about his economic achievements and emphasise how they benefit every citizen. India has overtaken Britain as the fifth largest economy in the world, but its GDP per capita remains dismal.

Read more: Has India's economy floundered under Modi?

Inequality is at a record high, and is even more stark than it was under colonial Britain. According to a report by the Paris-based World Inequalities Lab, India's top 1% population controls 40% of the nation's wealth - higher than the US, South Africa and Brazil.

Unemployment has plagued the government, and at times reached a 45-year high. Thousands of young men are taking dangerous journeys in search of employment and a better life.

Last year the US Customs and Border Protection force encountered 96,917 undocumented Indian immigrants. After Mexico and El Salvador, Indians form the third largest illegal migrant population in America.

The cost of living and inflation has also soared and has had a detrimental effect on household savings which are now at a five-decade low.

Economy boost

Modi is credited with cleaning up the financial system and reforms in the banking sector, goods and services taxation, digitalisation and making the system investor friendly.

His governments focus on building and developing India's creaking infrastructure has provided the much-needed boost to the economy.

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And his success in the range and delivery of welfare schemes has made him popular with the masses, particularly women.

Even as he underlines his economic achievements, though, the last few years have been marked by high unemployment, inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

After years of getting his own way Modi must now learn to depend on ruling in concert with coalition partners. If his government is to remain stable he will need to demonstrate real political acumen.