December 19, 2014
Polls close in India, Modi coalition set to win
Indians voted on the last day of a mammoth election today as challenger Narendra Modi sought a personal mandate in the holy city of Varanasi, crowning his campaign to rule the country with a mix of pro-business policies and Hindu nationalism.
A coalition led by Indian opposition candidate Narendra Modi is set to win a majority of seats in the country's general election, an exit poll by research group C-Voter showed.
Opinion polls almost unanimously predict Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will emerge as the largest party when votes are tallied on Friday to fill 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, or House of the People. India's rupee surged and stocks set a record as investors bet Modi will usher in a stable government focused on reviving Asia's third-largest economy.
Indian elections are notoriously hard to call, however, due to the country's diverse electorate and a parliamentary system in which local candidates hold great sway. Pre-election opinion polls and post-voting exit polls both have a patchy record.
Modi is the first prime ministerial candidate to stand in Varanasi, a 3,000-year-old city built around the river Ganges where several religions mingle but that is best known for the Hindu belief that to die here allows souls to escape the cycle of reincarnation.
His choice of the city was widely seen as a bid to consolidate his credentials as part of the Hindu nationalist movement that sees India as primarily a Hindu country. Modi's critics see him as a hardliner even though he has campaigned mainly on his record of job creation and economic management.
The election was marred by massacres of Muslims in the remote state of Assam that political rivals tied to speeches by Modi calling for illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to be expelled from India. The BJP has denied that the speeches were inflammatory.