Hundreds of millions of votes are being counted in the world’s biggest democratic exercise with results expected over the next few hours into Thursday evening. Some 600 million people were believed to have cast their vote across India over the course of the seven-phase election which lasted seven weeks. Official data from the Indian Election Commission showed President Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was ahead in 294 of the 542 seats available. While no results have been official announced yet, the BJP party would only need 272 seats to claim a majority in the lower house of parliament.
The main opposition Congress Party was ahead in 50 seats, figures showed.
News of the potential win for President Modi sent the Indian rupee strengthening against the US dollar earlier this morning, with the rupee heading toward 69.20.
At 9.03am BST, the rupee had pulled back slightly to 69.66.
Indian shares soared to record highs with the National Stock Exchange index and the Bombay Stock Exchange hitting a level last seen in 2014 after gaining 3.7 percent each.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, also a senior BJP leader, said on Twitter the BJP had won a “massive victory”.
GVL Narasimha Rao, a BJP spokesman, added: “It’s a huge mandate for positive politics and the policies of Narendra Modi.
“It’s a huge win for India. We are humbled by the magnificence of this victory.”
Congress leaders were sombre as spokesman Salman Soz said the Election Commission figures were “obviously not in our favour at all”.
He said: ”We need to wait for the full results but right now it doesn’t look good.”
Awhile Bery, South Asia analyst at Eurasia Group, said: “The exit polls released are in line with our belief that Modi’s BJP will be the single largest party, while it will have to rely on allies to form the government.
“However, it is important to recognise that exit polls in India have not had the best history in predicting the elections.”
NDTV and rival channel CNN News 18 have called the election for President Modi’s coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The NDA’s predicted margin of victory is much larger than surveys indicated in the run-up to the vote, when most polls showed it would be the largest alliance but would fall short of an overall majority.
Final results are due by Thursday evening.
President Modi was under pressure when he began campaigning, losing three state elections in December amid rising anger over farm prices and unemployment.
But sentiment returned to his favour when campaigning shifted towards India’s relationship with Pakistan after a suicide car bomb killed 40 Indian police in the contested Kashmir region in February.
Members of his party now want him to take a harder line on national security, as well as build a controversial temple on the site of a mosque that was demolished by a Hindu mob in Ayodhya in 1992.