India's Modi prepares for record 3rd term as nations congratulate his government on election victory

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses supporters at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

By ASHOK SHARMA Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) — China, Ukraine and other nations sent their congratulations on Wednesday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government began preparations for his swearing-in for a record third term following the world’s largest democratic election.

Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party met with allies who unanimously elected Modi as the National Democratic Alliance leader. Modi is likely to be sworn in as the prime minister on Saturday, local media said.

Official results from the Election Commission showed the BJP-led National Democratic alliance won 294 of the 543 seats, more than the 272 needed for a majority but far fewer than had been expected. For the first time since the BJP swept to power in 2014, it did not secure a majority on its own, winning 240 seats, far fewer than the record 303 it won in the 2019 election.

Modi met on Wednesday with Indian President Droupadi Murmu and tendered his customary resignation along with that of his Cabinet ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.

Congratulatory messages to Modi from leaders of regional countries including Nepal and Bhutan were the first to arrive, while the White House commended India for its “vibrant democratic process.”

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Wednesday extended congratulations to the BJP.

“A sound and stable India-China relationship is in the interest of both countries and conducive to the peace and development of this region and beyond,” she said, adding that China is ready to work with India in the fundamental interest of the two countries.

Tensions remain high between India and China, with tens of thousands of soldiers massed on their disputed border since 2020. A clash left 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese soldiers dead.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he looked forward to seeing India attend a peace summit to be hosted by Switzerland.

“Everyone in the world recognizes the significance and weight of India’s role in global affairs. It is critical that we all work together to ensure a just peace for all nations,” he said.

Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te said he looked forward to expanding collaboration in trade, technology and other sectors to contribute to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

In the election, the opposition Congress party won 99 seats, improving its tally from 52 in the 2019 polls. Among its key allies, the Samajwadi Party won 37 seats in northern Uttar Pradesh state in a major upset for the BJP, the All India Trinamool Congress took 29 seats in West Bengal state, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam won 22 seats in southern Tamil Nadu state.

Combined, the opposition INDIA coalition won a total of 232 seats.

The BJP may now be “heavily dependent on the goodwill of its allies, which makes them critical players who we can expect will extract their pound of flesh, both in terms of policymaking as well as government formation,” said Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“At the very least, the result pricks the bubble of Prime Minister Modi’s authority. He made this election about himself,” Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a political commentator, said in The Indian Express newspaper. “Today, he is just another politician, cut to size by the people.”

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