The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday appeared set to retain power as its candidates led in 229 of the 405 Lok Sabha seats from where counting trends were available, leaving the Congress far behind.
Good news for the BJP poured in from almost all parts of the Hindi heartland including Uttar Pradesh, where the SP-BSP alliance was expected to trip its path to victory, and neighbouring Bihar where it is allied with the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and others.
BJP’s Smriti Irani was leading over Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Amethi although the latter was far ahead of his Left rival in Wayanad in Kerala.
Despite losing power last year to the Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the BJP was on the victory path in most Lok Sabha seats in the three states.
The BJP and its ally Shiv Sena were leading 16 seats in Maharashtra while the BJP and its allies had forged ahead in 13 constituencies in Bihar.
Among the BJP leaders who were on the victory lap included Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), Maneka Gandhi (Sultanpur) and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur (Bhopal).
UPA Chairperson and senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi led in Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.
The Samajwadi Party was ahead of others on 3 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 9.
The TRS was leading in 11 seats in Telangana and the YSR Congress Party in 11 in Andhra Pradesh. The TDP was ahead of others in 5 seats in Andhra Pradesh.
The DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu was leading in 14 seats.
Indeed, the best news for the Congress came from Kerala where its candidates were leading in all 20 Lok Sabha seats. The Left, after initially leading in seven places, slipper to the second spot.
In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress led in 6 seats.
Officials on Thursday morning began counting the millions of votes cast in the Lok Sabha elections across the country whose verdict will determine who gets to rule India for the next five years.
Thousands of Election Commission officials began the mammoth exercise in thousands of centres in states and Union Territories amid tight security.
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.
Exit polls have predicted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP is most likely to return to power.
Election in Vellore in Tamil Nadu was countermanded by the Election Commission.