India elections: Modi ready to form govt as shares hit record high

A man praying to a deity on display at the Bombay Stock Exchange building in Mumbai. The exchange's Sensex index had its biggest one-day gain in nearly six years to close at a record high, while the rupee strengthened against the US dollar.
A man praying to a deity on display at the Bombay Stock Exchange building in Mumbai. The exchange's Sensex index had its biggest one-day gain in nearly six years to close at a record high, while the rupee strengthened against the US dollar.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Media polls predict big win for Indian PM and allies, though opposition refuses to concede

NEW DELHI • Indian shares hit a record high yesterday, a day after exit polls predicted a new term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prepared to meet coalition partners to discuss a new government.

While opposition parties refused to concede, most media polls said the BJP and its allies would secure enough seats to form a new government after the world's biggest election, which began on April 11 and ended on Sunday.

Mr Modi's BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is projected to win anything between 339 and 365 seats in the 545-member Lower House of Parliament, with the Congress-led opposition alliance getting between 77 and 108 seats, an exit poll from India Today Axis showed on Sunday. A party needs 272 seats to command a majority.

The predicted BJP margin of victory is wider than opinion polls indicated in the run-up to the vote, when most surveys showed the NDA would be the largest alliance but would fall short of an overall majority.

Votes will be counted on Thursday and the results are likely to be out the same day.

Indian stock markets and the rupee were sharply higher on expectation that the business-friendly Mr Modi would stay on at the helm. The Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensex index had its biggest one-day gain in nearly six years - 3.75 per cent - to close at a record high of 39,352 points, while the rupee strengthened to 69.63 to the US dollar from last Friday's close of 70.22.

The Prime Minister and other top BJP leaders made no immediate claim of victory. But BJP spokesman G.V.L. Narasimha Rao said the polls "clearly show a huge positive vote for the leadership of Narendra Modi, who has served the country with unmatched dedication".

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said he had confidence in the exit polls. "When multiple exit polls convey the same message, the direction of the result broadly would be in consonance with the message," Mr Jaitley said in a blog post yesterday.

Sources told Reuters the BJP would hold talks this afternoon with coalition partners on forming a government at its headquarters in New Delhi. The talks will be led by the party's president, Mr Amit Shah, a party source said.

Mr Nalin Kohli, a spokesman for the BJP, declined to comment.

The predicted BJP margin of victory is wider than opinion polls indicated in the run-up to the vote, when most surveys showed the NDA would be the largest alliance but would fall short of an overall majority.

 
 

The BJP won 282 seats out of Parliament's 543 elected seats in its 2014 landslide win and together with its allies, it had 336 seats.

The opposition Congress was predicted to double its 2014 tally of 44 seats - a historic low since India's independence in 1947 - but that the number would still fall far short of a claim to power.

The party pointed to the unreliability of polls in previous elections.

Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha said on Twitter he believed the exit poll numbers were wrong. "If the exit poll figures are true, then my dog is a nuclear scientist," Mr Jha said, adding that he expected the next prime minister would come from outside the BJP alliance.

Mr Modi and his BJP faced criticism in the run-up to the election over unemployment - in particular for failing to provide opportunities to young people entering the job market - and weak farm prices.

But the Premier rallied his Hindu nationalist base and made national security a central theme of his campaign after a surge in tension with Pakistan in February following a suicide bomb attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir by Pakistan-based militants.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2019, with the headline 'Modi ready to form govt as shares hit record high'. Print Edition | Subscribe