In a big development, according to initial trends, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was trailing against his rival, Smriti Irani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in his backyard Amethi, according to CNN News18 TV channel. Gandhi is fighting from two seats, the other being Wayanad in Kerala.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken an early lead in the counting of votes for the 17th Lok Sabha elections that ended May 19, according to the TV channel. Of the 187 seats for which trends are available, the party is ahead in 107 seats. The Congress is leading in 23 seats.
BJP seemed to be holding off the much-feared Mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh while making smart gains in West Bengal and Odisha.
Counting for votes started at 8AM. The bitterly-fought seven-phase exercise stretched over 39 days and saw the highest-ever turnout for an election at 67.1%.
According to exit polls released Sunday, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is expected to get anywhere between 242 and 365 seats.
The Congress, which was decimated in the 2014 general elections when it got a mere 44 seats, is seen bettering its performance. The United Progressive Alliance, led by the grand old party, is seen getting between 82 and 164 seats, according to the pollsters.
In a major shift of stance from 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode to power on his ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ agenda, he this time sought another term on the basis of strong and clean governance, rooting out corruption, providing social welfare schemes directly to the beneficiaries and muscular nationalism.
The opposition ran its campaign accusing the government of polarising the country on communal lines, the highly unpopular demonetization that led to job losses, hurting small traders, ignoring the farmers while catering to industrialists and mismanaging the economy.