New Delhi (India), May 23 (ANI): Riding on muscular nationalism and a strident anti-Congress plank spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP on Thursday got an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha, crossing on its own the 300 mark while storming back to power for the second consecutive term.
The BJP-led NDA was close to touching the 350 mark like in the previous elections in 2014. The half-way mark in the 543-member Lok Sabha is 272.
Putting up a spectacular show in the new eastern regions, like West Bengal and Odisha, the BJP improved on its 2014 performance by winning 42 seats and was leading in 260 seats till late evening while the Congress has bagged two seats and was ahead in only 48 others.
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 covered 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 and 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).
The ruling party has added 22 seats to its tally of 282 in the 2014 election of the 543 seats in Lok Sabha. BJP allies Shiv Sena were ahead in 19, JD-U (16) and Lok Janshakti Party (1 win and 5 leads) were also doing well in Maharashtra and Bihar. Its ally SAD was leading in two seats 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 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).
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.
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.
BJP's ride back to power was also enabled by its spectacular show in West Bengal where it was leading in 18 of the 42 seats in the state. The ruling Trinamool Congress has suffered a severe setback as it could lead only in 23 seats against 34 it had in the outgoing Lok Sabha. In Odisha, the BJP made inroads into BJD's strongholds and was leading in 9 seats. It had won 1 seat in the last elections. The ruling BJD was ahead in 12 seats.
The BJP also was set to sweep in Bihar where the party and its ally JD(U) were ahead in 16 seats each and the other ally LJP was leading in six seats. The BJP has already bagged one seat in the state, which has 40 seats.
Karnataka also was going the BJP way where it was leading in 23 of the 28 seats, pushing the ruling Congress-JDS behind. The Congress-JDS alliance managed to win two seats in the state. former Prime Minister Deva Gowda lost in Hassan and chief minister Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil was defeated in Mandya. He lost to actress Sumalatha, who was backed by the BJP.
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 was set to lose 11 of its seats it had won in 2014. In the last elections, the BJP had bagged 71 seats while its ally Apna Dal got two seats.
The SP-BSP-RLD, which was projected to give a tough challenge to the BJP was ahead in 16 seats. The BSP has already bagged one seat the lone seat in which the Congress was leading was that of Sonia Gandhi in Raebareli.
In Delhi, the AAP and Congress, which failed to broker a deal, drew a blank. (ANI)