Counting to begin after India’s mammoth election

The election will decide if Mr Modi wins a third consecutive term, a feat only matched by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The BJP was expected to campaign mainly on the back of its government’s welfare record, Hindu nationalism, national security credentials and Mr Modi’s charismatic leadership.

But early in the election, Mr Modi’s campaign shifted gears, using divisive rhetoric that raised questions about his tactics – he accused the opposition, led by the Congress party, of appeasing the Muslim minority community.

Exit polls predict a return for the BJP-led alliance and Mr Modi appears to be confident of winning, but opposition parties say Indians face the loss of many freedoms if he stays in power.

They have accused the BJP government of denying them a level playing field.

Out of power for a decade, the opposition has focused intensely on systemic inequality and a third consecutive defeat would be a major setback, casting doubts on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership of the Congress party.

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