"India wins yet again!" tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it became clear that Congress, India's oldest political party that had mounted a major challenge to him, was set to be routed, winning just marginally more seats than the 44 it got in 2014.
PM Modi on Thursday led the BJP to a stunning victory in the Lok Sabha battle, with the ruling party itself set to win over 300 seats in a marked improvement over its 2014 showing that left the opposition dazed and demoralised.
And along with its allies, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was poised to give another five years of governance, a development that sent the Sensex breaching the 40,000-mark as India Inc celebrated.
The NDA could end up with 343 of the 542 Lok Sabha seats where polling took place.
Congratulations poured in for PM Modi, who was re-elected by over 4.75 lakh votes from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. BJP President Amit Shah was on the road to victory with an equally thumping margin from Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
"Our win is India's victory," remarked Amit Shah.
In contrast, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept state after state, including those ruled by the Congress. Its most spectacular results came in Uttar Pradesh where it was set to win 60 of the 80 seats, puncturing the SP-BSP alliance, while making major inroads in West Bengal by taking the victory lap in an unprecedented 18 of the 42 seats.
The saffron party was set to bag all 26 seats in Modi's home state Gujarat, all 10 in Haryana, all seven in Delhi, all five in Uttarakhand, all four in Himachal Pradesh, both seats in Tripura as well as Arunachal Pradesh and the single seats of Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Manipur besides a whopping 28 out of 29 in Madhya Pradesh, 24 out of 25 in Rajasthan, 41 out of 48 in Maharashtra along with the Shiv Sena, 25 out 28 in Karnataka, 11 out of 14 in Jharkhand, 9 out of 14 in Assam and 39 out of 40 in Bihar in alliance with the JD-U and LJP.
The Modi sweep crushed Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh although he was elected to the Lok Sabha by over 4 lakh votes from Wayanad in Kerala. UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who had planned a meeting of opposition parties here on Thursday in the hope of dislodging Modi, was the sole Congress winner for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh (Rae Bareli).
The SP-BSP alliance, which was confident of tripping the BJP's road to victory, suffered a blow in the country's politically most critical state. The BSP was poised to win just 10 seats and the Samajwadi Party 6 as their caste formula got drowned by Modi's election campaigning based mainly on aggressive nationalism.
The BJP's years of efforts in West Bengal finally bore fruits as its candidates were set to emerge victorious in 18 places, washing out the once formidable Left and leaving the Congress punctured. The BJP won only two seats in 2014.
The Congress had something to cheer in Punjab, where it was set to win 8 of the 13 Lok Sabha seats, and Kerala, where it decimated the Left by winning 15 seats on its own while four seats went to its allies.
The DMK-led alliance made a clean sweep of Tamil Nadu and was set to take 36 of the 38 seats, leaving only 2 to the ruling AIADMK. The Congress, a DMK ally, won 8 seats.
Just Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu accounted for 31 of the Congress party's total 50 Lok Sabha seats. In many states, the Congress failed to open its account or won just one seat.
A sombre Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat and congratulated Modi. Congratulations also came from foreign leaders.
The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) was poised to win 13 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and also the Assembly elections. The YSR Congress Party stormed to power in Andhra Pradesh, dislodging the TDP, and could bag 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats.
The TRS performed relatively poorly in Telangana, with victory sighted in 9 of the 17 seats.
While former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference was set to win in Srinagar, PDP leader and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti conceded defeat in Anantnag, once her stronghold.
Around 67 per cent of the nearly 900 million voters exercised their franchise in the seven-phase elections that began on April 11 and ended on May 19. Election in Vellore in Tamil Nadu was countermanded by the Election Commission.
Congress stares at uncertain future
Dominating the country's politics for decades, the future of the Congress is now uncertain as it faced its second consecutive and humiliating Lok Sabha defeat at the hands of the BJP.
The biggest shock to the Congress is its leader Rahul Gandhi losing the family pocket-borough of Amethi, held by the party since decades. It has again failed to get the post of Leader of Opposition in the lower house.
Some insiders feel the party's negative and highly-personalised attack on Prime Minister Modi in the poll campaign like 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' digs and too much talk about Rafale did not work and harmed the party at the hustings.
The party's proposed "Nyay" (Nyuntam aay Yojna) scheme failed to enthuse voters.
Soon after the humiliating defeat, Rahul Gandhi was quick to take "100 per cent responsibility" for it and said the working committee would soon sit together and brainstorm on what went wrong.
"I take 100 per cent responsibility for this defeat," he said, while sidestepping a question on whether he will resign. He added that the party's highest decision-making body - the working committee - will take a decision on this.
He also congratulated PM Modi and BJP for their victory and said he respected the people's verdict, but hoped Modi will look after the interests of the country.
"Today is not the day for me to go into the details of this mandate. Today is the day that a new prime minister has been elected and today is the day to wish him all the best and, hopefully, he will look after the interests of this country," Rahul said.
However, veteran Janardan Dwivedi, in a cryptic remark on the party's dismal showing said, "I am not surprised" with the results, but did not elaborate on the reasons for his reaction.
Once a strategic and key member of the Congress core team holding the all-powerful post of general secretary in the party, Dwivedi was last year replaced by Ashok Gehlot, who was brought in the CWC. Apart from not holding any party position, he remained away from the party decision-making processes, including the poll strategy for this Lok Sabha election.
Senior party leader Anand Sharma also called for serious introspection, saying it is time to reflect on what went wrong and evolve ways on how to rejuvenate the party.
"Accepting the people's verdict with all humility, I congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his victory. I hope the mandate gives grace and wisdom to leave the campaign bitterness behind and work towards unity," Sharma said.
"It is time to collectively introspect and reflect on what went wrong and mistakes made that led to this humiliating defeat. We remain committed to the Congress ideology and values and reflect on how to rejuvenate the party for the larger interest of the Indian democracy, with all honesty," Sharma said.
The Congress scored a zero in as many as 17 states and Union territories, including in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat, where the party had fared well in last assembly elections in 2017, besides in Rajasthan where it formed its government only a few months ago.
The party merely managed to win one seat, that too by a narrow margin in Madhya Pradesh, where it had just formed its government, and only two seats in another state ruled by it - Chhattisgarh.
It drew a naught in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and some northeastern states except Assam, where it won three seats, and one seat in Meghalaya.
In Uttar Pradesh, only Sonia Gandhi managed to win.
The saving grace for the party came in Kerala, where it won 15 seats, while it was victorious in eight seats in Punjab.
In Tamil Nadu, it won eight out of nine seats it contested in coalition with the DMK.
In Puducherry, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa, the Congress managed to win only one seat each.
(With inputs from agencies)
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