New Delhi [India], May 23 (ANI): Riding high on the planks of muscular nationalism and anti-Congressism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday secured a resounding mandate for the second consecutive term as BJP crossed the 300 mark by breaking new grounds in West Bengal and Odisha and retaining its sway in the Hindi heartland in the Lok Sabha elections.
Storming back to power, the party bettered its 2014 performance by getting 21 seats more than the 282 it had secured earlier. A party needs 272 to get a majority in the 543 member Lok Sabha.
The BJP-led NDA was close to touching the 350 mark like in the previous elections in 2014. BJP has won 146 seats and was ahead in 157 seats till late in the night as counting was in progress, delayed by the procedure to match VVPATs with EVMs.
Prime Minister Modi was leading comfortably in Varanasi where he is seeking a second term while UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi led in Raebareli. Home Minister Rajnath Singh was leading in Lucknow and BJP President Amit Shah won by a big margin in Gandhinagar.
On the other hand, the Congress continued to fare poorly in the elections bagging only 29 seats and leading in 22 seats.
Making inroads into West Bengal and Odisha where it emerged as the main Opposition, the BJP was on the road to bag 18 seats after battling the ruling TMC. The party has won 4 seats and was leading in 14 seats. The TMC has 34 seats in the outgoing Lok Sabha, while the BJP had 2.
In Odisha, the BJP, which had won one seat in the last elections, was leading in 8 in the current elections while the ruling BJD was ahead in 13.
The BJP, which had won 282 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections also helped the NDA coalition to notch 343 seats overall. This will be the first time when a non-Congress party has managed to secure a majority on its own for the second consecutive term after Indira Gandhi had won in 1971. Earlier her father Jawaharlal Nehru had performed that feat.
The saffron surge covering the Hindi heartland, entered in a big way in the east, in West Bengal and Odisha and also the west where it swept Maharashtra. Karnataka, the only state in the south where it had formed a government in the past, fell to BJP's sweep. Only Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh were untouched by the BJP storm.
Modi who exploited his government's campaign against terrorism by the aerial strikes in Pakistan that overshadowed a number of anti-incumbency issues like economic downturn and agrarian unrest to repeat his 2014 show in crucial states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, made fresh gains in Karnataka.
Like five years ago, the BJP also swept Gujarat (25), Delhi (7), Haryana (10), Himachal Pradesh (4) and Uttarakhand (5).
BJP allies Shiv Sena were ahead in 18, JD-U (16) and Lok Janshakti Party (6) as the coalition were doing well in Maharashtra and Bihar. Its ally SAD won two seats-- that of Sukbhir Singh Badal and his wife Harsimrat Kaur -- in Punjab.
On the other side, the main challenger Congress did no better than the previous elections and was way behind BJP. Congress president Rahul Gandhi suffered a humiliating defeat in Amethi, the Gandhi bastion in Uttar Pradesh at the hands of Union Minister Smriti Irani by over 38,000 votes. However, he had a face-saving victory in Wayanad in Kerala where he was leading by 4.2 lakhs to his nearest CPI(M) rival.
Congress ally DMK has put up a good show bagging one seat and leading in 23 of the 38 seats in Tamil Nadu. The DMK, Congress coalition virtually swept Tamil Nadu conceding only two seats to AIADMK out of the 38 for which elections were held. The lone seat in Puducherry went to Congress. The Congress was leading in eight of the nine seats it contested in the state.
The party was also doing well in Kerala where it was leading in 15 out of total 20 parliamentary seats.
The Congress rout was so huge that nine of its former chief ministers lost in the hustings. They were Shiela Dikshit (Delhi), Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana), Digvijaya Singh (Madhya Pradesh) Ashok Chavan and Sushil Kumar Shinde (Maharashtra), Mukul Sangma (Meghalaya), Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh) and Veerappa Moily (Karnataka).
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav was leading in Azamgarh while his father Mulayam Singh Yadav was leading in Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh. Senior SP leader Azam Khan was leading in Rampur.
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi was trailing in Sultanpur, whereas her son Varun Gandhi was leading from Pilibhit constituency in UP.
The BJP also was set to sweep in Bihar where the party was leading in all the 17 seats it contested and its ally JD(U) were ahead in 16. The other ally LJP has won six seats.
Karnataka was swept by a BJP wave earning it 25 of the 28 seats, decimating the ruling Congress-JDS alliance, which managed to win only two seats in the state. BJP-backed candidate Sumalath, widow of actor Ambareesh, who won from Mandya defeating chief minister Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil.
The Gowda family suffered the humiliation of the former prime minister Deve Gowda losing in Tumkur. The consolation victory for the family was that of Prajwal Revanna from Hasan.
Apart from fresh gains, the BJP put up a sterling show in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where it had lost the Assembly polls five months ago.
In the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP lost only 9 seats of the 71 it had won in 2014. Its ally Apna Dal got two seats.
The SP-BSP-RLD, which was projected to give a tough challenge to the BJP was ahead only in 15 seats.
In Delhi, the AAP and Congress, which failed to broker a deal, drew a blank. (ANI)