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Results are being tabulated in India's 6-week election

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After six marathon weeks of voting across India where nearly 1 billion people were eligible to vote, to cast a ballot or press buttons on an electronic voting machine, counting is now underway to tally the results.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

And initial results suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP party will become prime minister for the third time.

MARTIN: On the line with us now to tell us more is NPR's Diaa Hadid. She's in the capital, New Delhi. Hello, Diaa.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: How are the numbers looking so far?

HADID: Well, so far a tally by India's election commission indicates that Modi's party - it's called the BJP - has won the largest number of seats in Parliament. It hasn't won a clear majority, but with its allies, it looks like it will be able to form a coalition government. On the flip side, India's opposition alliance has done better than exit polls expected. But it hasn't won enough seats to form government according to the count so far.

MARTIN: So essentially, it's a victory for the BJP and a victory for the prime minister yet again?

HADID: Yes. But, you know, I'm on the ground in the capital, New Delhi. And if you were here just judging by the mood outside each of the campaign headquarters, you would say that Modi's BJP had lost and the opposition won. And that's because, at the outset of these elections, Modi promised that his party would win a supermajority. The exit polls predicted Modi's party would nearly hit those numbers. And so outside the BJP headquarters, we saw a man seemingly pray to a Modi-like god, beseeching him to come back to power.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing in non-English language).

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLES HONKING)

HADID: And so, unless there's a dramatic change as counting continues, yes, Modi will return to power. He will be the only prime minister after the founder of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru, to win three times. But he'll rule as a part of a coalition, not as this seemingly unstoppable juggernaut led by a man who recently suggested to a journalist that he was chosen by God.

MARTIN: So, Diaa, what does this mean for India going forward?

HADID: Well, Michel, I think it will be harder for Modi and his party to continue their vast recasting of India as a country that elevates its Hindu majority above other citizens - harder but not impossible. It also appears to have signaled to the opposition, which is led by the Congress Party, that power is within reach. That party is led by Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of India's first prime minister. It used to dominate Indian politics, but it's waned in recent years. And under Rahul's leadership, the party shrank and shrank.

But in these elections, the party looks like it won double the seats that it did in the previous ones, so now Rahul can show voters that he and the Congress Party can fight back. They'll be a more muscular opposition. And critics say that will also likely shake Indian institutions, which critics say were increasingly partial to Modi and his party in recent years, like the mainstream media, YouTube news outlets, influencers, law enforcement agencies and even India's election commission itself.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Diaa Hadid in New Delhi. Diaa, thank you so much.

HADID: Thank you, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF JANKO NILOVIC AND THE SOUL SURFERS' "PRELUDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.