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India's Narendra Modi on track for a second term as PM, exit polls predict
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India's Narendra Modi on track for a second term as PM, exit polls predict
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi look set to retain power at the head of a coalition government last night, after exit polls showed his Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies were on track to win a majority of seats in India’s parliament. With polls showing the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will win as many as 306 seats in India’s 543-seat lower house, the controversial Hindu-nationalist leader would secure a second five-year term, though with a slimmer mandate than in 2014. The opposition Congress-led United Progressive Alliance coalition, which sunk to historic lows last time out, were predicted to win an estimated 132 seats - but a Congress spokesman dismissed the exit polls as “laughable”, citing the shyness of voters in such a polarised contest. The exit polls, which have proved wildly unreliable in the past, were released yesterday evening after the last of India’s 900 million registered voters had cast their ballots. The counted result is due on Thursday. The six week campaign has been largely peaceful, though ended with violent clashes on the outskirts of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal where the BJP have been skirmishing with the regional Trinamool Congress party. There were sporadic clashes throughout the campaign as Mr Modi pushed to pick up seats in the target-rich state to offset expected losses elsewhere. The projected result emerged as Mr Modi attracted attracted ire and bemusement yesterday after donning saffron robes to meditate in a Himalayan cave, in a bid to garner voters at the end of the campaign. In pictures released by his party press machine, the PM is seen wearing the orange garments synonymous with Hindu priests and sitting cross-legged in a cave near the Kedarnath shrine, in the northern state of Uttarakhand. A master of the grand political gesture, Mr Modi and his aides tweeted the photos, hoping they would strike a chord with his austere, religious supporters. Indian elections 2019 - Projected seat share However, as violence continued in West Bengal and people were voting in Mr Modi’s own constituency of Varanasi, the holy city on the River Ganges, the pictures were mocked online. “No meditation is complete or meaningful without the right attire, red carpet and of course a stage managed photo opportunity,” wrote Rupa Subramanya prominent economist and a former BJP supporter turned critic. Other observers and much of the Indian media turned their attention to the caves themselves - which are actually in a man-made retreat. They can be booked online for Rs 990 (£11.20) a day and the facilities include electricity, drinking water, and “morning tea, breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner at prescribed timing which can be changed upon request”, reported the Hindustan Times. The cave also has a telephone connection and an attendant who can be summoned with a bell, the newspaper added.
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