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New Delhi Proving exit polls right, the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday appeared set to retain power as its candidates alone led in 294 of the 541 Lok Sabha seats with its allies faring equally well across the country, stunning the opposition.
The BJP made stunning inroads in West Bengal where its candidates were ahead in 15 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats while the ruling Trinamool Congress was on the top in 25 places. The BJP had won only two seats in 2014. The Congress led in one place while the Left, which ruled the state for decades, faced a washout.
Good news for the BJP poured in from almost all parts of the Hindi heartland and even beyond including Uttar Pradesh, where the SP-BSP alliance was expected to trip its path to victory, as well as Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra besides the Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and in Karnataka where the Congress-JD-S are in power.
In Uttar Pradesh, which elects 80 members to the Lok Sabha, the BJP led in a whopping 57 constituencies, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 8 and 11 seats respectively.
BJP candidates were on the victory path on all 26 seats in Gujarat, 24 of the 25 seats in Rajasthan, 28 of the 29 seas in Madhya Pradesh and 9 of the 11 seats in Chhattisgarh, virtually ending Congress dreams of unseating Modi and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Bihar too proved lucky for the BJP which led in 15 of the 37 seats while its allies Janata Dal-United (JD-U) also led in 15 constituencies and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in 5, puncturing the Grand Alliance led by the RJD.
A see-saw battle raged in Amethi between BJP's Smriti Irani and Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who was again trailing after taking a slight edge earlier. But Gandhi was guaranteed a victory in Wayanad in Kerala where he led by over 1 lakh votes over his Left rival.
The BJP led in 23 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra and its ally Shiv Sena on 19, dealing a major blow to the Congress-NCP alliance.
The BJP's best news in southern India came in Karnataka where its candidates led in 23 of the 26 seats, shocking the Congress-Janata Dal-S alliance which rules the state.
The BJP leaders who were on the victory lap included Modi (Varanasi), Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), Union Minister Maneka Gandhi (Sultanpur), Union Minister Giriraj Singh (Begusarai) and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur (Bhopal).
UPA Chairperson and senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi led in Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.
The TRS was leading in 11 seats in Telangana and the YSR Congress Party in 24 in Andhra Pradesh. The TDP was ahead in only one seat in Andhra Pradesh.
The DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu was leading in 22 of the 39 seats while the Congress was on the top in Punjab.
The best news for the Congress came from Kerala where its candidates were leading in 15 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats.
Officials on Thursday morning began counting the millions of votes cast in the Lok Sabha elections across the country whose verdict will determine who gets to rule India for the next five years.
Around 67 per cent of the nearly 900 million voters exercised their franchise in the seven-phase elections that began on April 11 and ended on May 19.
Election in Vellore in Tamil Nadu was countermanded by the Election Commission.