Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing party has taken a decisive lead as votes are counted in the country’s huge general election.
The alliance led by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is ahead in well over 300 seats and Mr Modi is on course to extend his majority.
Over 600 million people voted in a marathon six-week long process.
Mr Modi was up against the main opposition Congress party and powerful regional rivals across the country.
Counting began at 08:00 local time (02:30 GMT) when voting ended on Sunday.
This election has been viewed as a referendum on Mr Modi, a polarising figure adored by many but also blamed for increasing divisions in India.
Supporters of the Hindu nationalist BJP have begun celebrating what they see as a decisive win. But Mr Modi is only expected to arrive at the party HQ in Delhi later on Thursday.
What are the numbers?
While Mr Modi’s BJP is ahead in hundreds of seats, the main opposition alliance headed by Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party is ahead in fewer than 100.
A party or coalition needs at least 272 seats to secure a majority in the 543-member lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha.
In 2014, the BJP won 282 seats – the biggest victory by any party in 30 years – and with its allies, it secured 336 seats in that parliament.
India votes 2019
The Congress, which won just 44, suffered its worst defeat in 2014 and with its allies took up just 60 seats in the lower house.
This year, there were 900 million voters eligible to take part in seven rounds of voting, making it the largest election the world had ever seen.
The fate of more than 8,000 candidates and some 670 political parties hangs on the ballot.
Results are being released in phases by the Election Commission but a final result may not be known for several hours, or longer.
What the results so far tell us
It is becoming increasingly clear – the BJP is heading for landslide victory. So what does this tell us?
Firstly, we see that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma has remained intact.
He remains the BJP’s main vote-getter, and his assertion that a vote for his party was actually a vote for him seems to have worked.
Secondly, backed by enormous resources, the BJP’s organisational machinery, employing all modern methods of communication, is now difficult to beat.
We also see that the opposition failed to build an alternative narrative to take on the BJP’s campaign, which deftly combined nationalism, development and religious polarisation.
The Congress needs to reinvent itself to take on a powerful and committed adversary like the BJP. It will need to become a much more hard-working party, and need to grow its own regional leaders and grassroots networks.
A lack of jobs in cities and villages is not a strong enough message to win elections against a powerful trope like nationalism, which Modi has been able to mine well.
What has the response been?
At BJP headquarters in Delhi, the mood was upbeat with party members cheering and setting off fireworks as the results came in.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, a senior BJP leader said in a tweet the BJP had won a “massive victory”.
The BBC’s Zubair Ahmed in Delhi says Congress Party staff and spokespersons, hoping for a much improved performance, look lost for words.
He says an evening press conference is being planned in which some senior party leaders could accept defeat. It is unclear if party president Rahul Gandhi will attend.
“It’s obviously not in our favour at all,” said Salman Soz, a Congress spokesperson. “We need to wait for the full results but right now it doesn’t look good.
Where are they key contests?
It’s often said that whoever wins Uttar Pradesh, wins the Indian election. The huge northern state sends 80 MPs – more than any other – to parliament. In 2014 the BJP won 71 seats there. It is currently leading in more than 50 seats.
This is despite a tie-up between two powerful regional parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP). The bitter rivals banded together to form a so-called “grand alliance” against Mr Modi and and they were expected to win more seats than the governing party.
The BJP is doing better than expected in West Bengal, where it holds just two of the 42 parliamentary seats.
Here, it is up against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – a strident critic of Mr Modi – and it is leading in 17 seats.
Four of India’s five southern states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala – have long eluded the BJP and appear to have done so again in this election.
Of the 91 seats in these states, the BJP holds just four. In this part of the country, the party contests few seats, relying instead on alliances with regional heavyweights.
What are the key issues?
The economy is perhaps the biggest issue, with farming in crisis, unemployment on the rise and fears growing that India is heading for a recession.
A crop glut and declining commodity prices have led to stagnant farm incomes, leaving many farmers saddled with debt.
Under Mr Modi, the world’s sixth-largest economy has lost some of its momentum. Growth hovers around 7% and a leaked government report this year said the unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the 1970s.
Many also see this election as a battle for India’s identity and the protection of minorities. A strident – and at times violent – Hindu nationalism has become mainstream in the past five years, with increased attacks against minorities, including the lynching of dozens of Muslims accused of smuggling cows.
And national security is in the spotlight after a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militant group killed at least 40 paramilitary police in Indian-administered Kashmir in February. India then launched unprecedented air strikes in Pakistan, prompting it to respond in kind and bringing the two countries to the brink of war.
What Indian voters are being promised moo
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