India's Narendra Modi secures third term, despite drop in support

India's Narendra Modi secures third term, despite drop in support

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared his coalition's victory in India's general election on Tuesday, even though his party lost seats to a stronger than expected opposition, which pushed back against his mixed economic record and polarising politics.

“Today’s victory is the victory of the world’s largest democracy," Modi told the crowd at his party’s headquarters, saying Indian voters had “shown immense faith” both in his party and his National Democratic Alliance coalition.

Modi's win was only the second time an Indian leader has retained power for a third term after Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister. But also, it's the first time since his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in 2014 that it failed to secure a majority independently.

Modi will now need the support of other parties in his coalition - a surprising setback for the 73-year-old leader who had aimed for a landslide win.

More than 640 million votes were cast in the marathon election held over a span of six weeks in the world’s largest democratic exercise.

In the face of the unexpected drop in the BJP's support, the opposition claimed they had also won a victory of sorts, with the main opposition Congress party saying the election had been a “moral and political loss” for Modi.

“This is public’s victory and a win for democracy,” Congress party President Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters.

Despite the setback, Modi vowed to fulfill his election pledge of elevating India's economy from its current fifth place to the world's third largest.

He said he would advance India’s defence production, boost jobs for youth, raise exports and help farmers, among other things.

“This country will see a new chapter of big decisions. This is Modi’s guarantee,” he said, speaking in the third person.

Many of the Hindu nationalist policies he’s instituted over the last 10 years will also remain locked in place.

Before Modi came to power, India had coalition governments for 30 years.