India starts counting 600 million votes, Modi in pole position


NEW DELHI: India began counting about 600 million votes in its general election on Thursday, with a coalition led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party predicted to win a clear majority.

The vote count started at 0800 local time (0230 GMT), and results are likely to be clear later in the day.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is expected to surpass the 272 seats needed to command a majority in the lower house of parliament, six of seven exit polls showed on Sunday.

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

Modi came into campaigning under pressure, losing three state elections in December amid rising anger over farm prices and unemployment.

The BJP has also capitalized on the star power of Modi, a frenetic campaigner, as well as superior financial resources.

It outspent the main opposition Congress Party by six times on Facebook and Google advertising, data showed, and by as much as 20 times overall, sources told Reuters earlier this month.