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Modi on course for election victory, show India exit polls Record turnout as 551 million vote: official

 NEW DELHI, May 12, (Agencies): Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi is set to become India’s next prime minister, exit polls showed on Monday, with his opposition party and its allies forecast to sweep to a parliamentary majority in the world’s biggest ever election. 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, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has electrified the lengthy contest with a mediasavvy campaign that has hinged on vows to kickstart India’s economy and create jobs. Yet much depends on Modi winning enough seats to form a stable government that will allow him to push through his promised reforms. India’s staggered voting, spread over five weeks to reach the country’s 815 million voters and move security forces around its varied terrain, ended at 1800 IST (1230 GMT) on Monday. Results are due on May 16.

Research group C-Voter predicted 289 seats for the National Democratic Alliance headed by the BJP, with just 101 seats for the alliance led by the Congress party — which would be the ruling party’s worst ever result. Another poll, by Cicero for the India Today group, showed the NDA hitting between 261 and 283 seats. A majority of 272 is needed to form a government, although that is often achieved with outside support from regional parties. Several national exit polls over-estimated the BJP’s seat share in the last two general elections in 2004 and 2009. The ruling Congress party went on to form coalition governments on both occasions. “We will only know if this ‘Modi wave’ has really happened after the election results,” said Praveen Rai, a political analyst at the Delhibased Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), who published a report on exit polls last month. “It still might be more of a media wave, a manufactured wave.”

Meanwhile, a record 551 million voters cast their ballots in India’s general election which also saw the highest ever turnout rate of 66.38 percent, organisers of the contest said Monday. The number of voters shattered the previous record of 417 million set in India five years ago, Election Commission director general Akshay Rout told reporters. Around 814 million people had been eligible to vote in the world’s biggest election which wrapped up on Monday five weeks after the first phase of polling on April 7. “This is the highest ever turnout in India’s national election history. These numbers may still go up marginally because of postal ballots and other factors,” director general of the Election Commission, Akshay Rout, told reporters. The turnout rate of 66.38 percent beat the previous record of 64.01 set in 1984 and was a major jump from the last general election in 2009 when 58.19 percent of the electorate cast a ballot.

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