Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh thanked the people for their mandate
TEXT COMMENTARY (all posts Indian standard time, GMT+5.5)
By Joe Boyle
After voting in five stages over a month, the shape of India's new government emerged with speed and clarity as the results were announced. We followed every twist and turn on a day of high drama with updates from BBC correspondents, Twitter, your e-mails and blogs.
1948 On the one hand, a new improved Congress with an emboldened Manmohan Singh continues at the helm of Indian politics. On the other, a crushed BJP is left to search for a new direction. It's the kind of clarity all analysts crave. We're glad you were here to share the day with us. Hope to see you again... in five years' time!
1928 Just time for one more stat attack before we go. The latest official count has the Congress party and its allies on 138 seats, the BJP with 90, the Third Front with 39 and 13 other seats shared between smaller parties. With half the results in and indicators favouring the Congress in dozens of other seats, it is clear that the "grand old party" has won a clear victory.
1922 The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says: Business and trade associations have welcomed the results and hailed the victory of the Congress-led UPA. They believe a clear mandate will allow the government to press ahead with the reforms agenda, something that was put on the backburner by the Congress because of opposition from its Communist allies. Manmohan Singh is widely credited with initiating the reforms process in the early 1990s, and party leaders are already talking about taking that process forward.
1917 The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava in Delhi writes: The Congress-led UPA is likely to end up with about 250 seats, short of the magical tally of 272 - a majority in parliament's lower house. But that is unlikely to bother them much. Right now, Congress wants to avoid seeking the support of either the Communists or the Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh. Minority governments have survived in the past, after all.
1857 The Congress president Sonia Gandhi has won her seat Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh. She beat her rival RS Kushwaha of Bahujan Samaj Party by a record margin of 372,165 votes. Her Son, Rahul Gandhi, is also leading by a handsome margin from his Amethi constituency.
1853 The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says: We are getting news that there has been a swing of about 7% in favour of Congress. This makes this their best performance since 1991, when the party secured 232 seats.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh: 'The people have spoken with great clarity'
1839 The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says: Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the Congress' youth brigade and a junior minister in the current government, cannot hide his excitement. In the middle of an interview in his sprawling garden he catches up with the latest from his constituency on his mobile phone. "I won by more than 200,000 votes, can you believe that? I didn't expect it," he tells me, as he stood unfazed under a beehive.
1831 Pakistani journalist Nasim Zehra tells the BBC's Lyse Doucet the Congress win is good for relations with Pakistan...
1815 The BBC's Chris Morris in Delhi says: It now looks like a strong and stable government will emerge from this election and that's good news not just here - but for India's allies abroad. With the global economy in the doldrums and with crises across this region - in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - no-one wanted a period of prolonged political drift.
1757 Clear as mud, but the tweeters seem to concur... It looks as if Home Minister Chidambaram has won his seat - albeit with the benefit of a recount. We await confirmation from election officials.
1745 The BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi in Lucknow writes: In Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi party has suffered major losses. Party chief and political heavyweight Mulayam Singh Yadav may lose 14 seats out of 35 won in the last election. One senior figure has attributed this to internal fights in the party but rebellions by Muslim sectors of the party also meant that Muslim supporters switched over to Congress.
1740 Unconfirmed results from Maharashstra: Congress and allies win 25 seats out of 48 available. Shiv Sena win 11, the BJP nine and other parties take three seats.
1736 According to Times Now channel, Mr Chidambaram has won his seat on a recount. The Election Commission is yet to confirm. Have the tweeters been proved wrong??
Raja CSA, Chennai, India e-mails: Either BJP or Congress ruling India, I expect good rule, fulfilling the people's wishes on security, food, shelter and respect on the world level.
1710 This one's hotting up. According to the latest election commission update, Home Minister Chidambaram is leading in the recount after losing his seat in the initial count. According to many on Twitter, he's already lost the recount. And the tweets have been faster than most on this story.
Mr Chidambaram was quoted as saying he was "sure" of his re-election
1708 Another point made by analyst Paranjoy Guha Thakurta: "The people of the world's largest democracy voted for a centrist political party. They have eschewed extreme right and left-wing policies."
1705 Time for a recap of the results: the Congress and allies have 64, followed by the BJP bloc on 43.
1657 A shocking admission from political analyst Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. "We pretend to understand views of 700 million people," he told the BBC. "We [political analysts] turned out to be worse than astrologers." To be fair, he points out that even Congress didn't expect such a margin of victory.
1655 The BBC's Binoo Joshi in Jammu says: It's celebration time for the Congress. The party has won two out of the six seats here, and its ally National Conference party is leading in three other seats.
1647 The BBC's Amarnath Tewary in Patna says: While addressing media persons the ebullient Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said that people of Bihar have voted for development, peace and good governance. "I see the mandate in continuity of our party's performance in 2005 state assembly poll," Mr Kumar told the BBC.
nnachi in Bangalore tweets:
rahul credited for turn around of cong in UP and other northern states. chorus growing loud for cabinet post.
1629 The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar reports: In Srinagar, Congress ally, the National Conference is reported to have wrested one seat from another party and is winning all three seats in the area.
Sanjoy Majumder comments on the mood from Congress election HQ
1627 Prime Minister Singh says he will try to persuade Rahul Gandhi to join the cabinet.
1625 Manmohan Singh gives a news conference. Thanks the people of India.
1623 Times Now channel reports that railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has won the Saran constituency in Bihar, but has lost in Patliputra. Mr Yadav, looking pensive, told reporters it was a mistake to not join hands with the Congress-led alliance. "Why was the public angry with us? Why did they reject us? We will sit down and introspect now," he said.
1621 To help explain a line coming in from Bihar (stay with us, it'll appear in a few moments!) it's worth pointing out that candidates can stand in two separate seats. If they win both, they have to give up one, and a by-election is held.
1610 In Indian-administered Kashmir, the only separatist running for parliament failed in his bid for a seat. Sajjad Lone came third.
Chiranjeevi starred in more than 100 films before starting his own political party
1555 We've had controversies and a dramatic recount (see below). Now we've got glamour. Screen idol Chiranjeevi - one of several film stars up for election - won his way into the state assembly. But his Praja Rajyam party appears to have drawn a blank in the national election.
1536 There's a recount going on in the constituency of Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. He had lost - but in the recount he's reported to be leading by 3,500 votes!
Two ends of the political spectrum: cousins Rahul (L) and Varun Gandhi
1525 The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says: The BJP's Varun Gandhi seems to be miles ahead of his Congress party rival in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh. The crux of Mr Gandhi's campaign was his anti-Muslim stance, something that got him trouble with the election authorities, but it seems to have worked with his voters. Some analysts are worried by his good showing - a vote for the politics of hate, they say. In future, they say, the BJP may use the strategy to polarise voters along religious lines. Worrying indeed.
1508 The Indian media has begun speculating on the make-up of the new government. Manmohan Singh is to be prime minister, of course. One name being suggested for a cabinet post is Rahul Gandhi. The young politician is being credited with the revival of the 125-year-old party.
Shashi Tharoor romped home with a crushing majority
1502 Award-winning novelist Shashi Tharoor wins Trivandrum by a margin of almost 100,000 votes. He says the huge win indicates the level of people's expectation. "I'll have to live up to that," he said.
1452 The BBC's Amarnath Tewary in Patna says: I am outside the residence of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The mood is celebratory here. In contrast, a pall of gloom seems to have descended on the house of Laloo Yadav - former railway minister and leader of the Rashtriya Janat Dal (RJD) party.
1443 Rajnath Singh, of the BJP, says the results are "completely unexpected". He says: "We will take stock of the situation and assess the results in detail to see what went wrong where and the results did not come to our expectations."
Sridhar from Bangalore e-mails: I am really glad and relieved for the sake of the country that a single party has the majority. It is a verdict by the people that tells us that they will not tolerate politics based on religion and caste. Such parties should wake up and smell the sentiments.
1425 Official results are starting to flow in now - more than 20 so far. The Congress and BJP are neck-and-neck, but it shouldn't be long before the Congress begins to pull away.
1420 The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says: The knives are clearly out at BJP HQ. One party worker watched the results on a large TV with me. "What do you expect," he said. "The party leadership didn't listen to us on the ground. We saw it coming."
1413 The BBC's Prachi Pinglay in Mumbai says: Celebrations have started at the Congress party's headquarters as they are clearly leading the state. There are cut-outs of leaders, drums and firecrackers being burst on the road. Screens have been put up to show results and people are gathering around them.
1406 The Press Trust of India confirms what many on Twitter had been speculating on for hours: Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has lost his seat. He's the first major government figure to lose his seat.
1402 Neerja Chowdhry, political editor at New Indian Express, says the results are unexpected. She says: "It's a vote for political stability. It's also a preference for the incumbent government because not only has the Congress done well, most of the allies have done well. We thought the suspense would last two weeks - instead the picture is clear in two hours."
1358 For those of you wondering how the Communist kingmakers are faring in West Bengal, our reporter Rahul Tandon says the results are nothing short of disastrous...
The BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi in Lucknow says: The revival of Congress in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh is the biggest news to come out of these elections. It seems the last-minute strategy of the party's young leader Rahul Gandhi to go it alone and not fight elections in alliance with the regional Samajwadi party has worked well. Congress seems to have regained its traditional base among the poor, Muslims and high-caste Brahmins.
1340 The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says: In Indian-administered Kashmir, the governing National Conference-Congress has established a comfortable lead. Earlier there was tight security outside the counting hall. Even the state legislators were not allowed in.
1320 Ready for a recap? Well, everyone seems to accept that Congress have won. But the margin of victory has surprised even their supporters. It's wide. And it means Congress will need less help from regional and leftist parties. So less horse-trading and bickering, and a more stable government should be the upshot. I stress, should be.
1315 The Times Now channel is reporting that Congress party president Sonia Gandhi has called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to congratulate him on the party's victory.
1313 The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says: The Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, seems to have gained some ground in the past hour of counting. Her BSP may still emerge as the largest party in Uttar Pradesh. But with the Congress-led UPA projected to get enough seats on their own, BSP is unlikely to be a major player at the national level in Delhi.
1311 Several senior officials in the BJP accept publicly their party has lost.
Fevered coalition negotiations are expected to ensue after the count
Santosh Reddy, Kharagpur, India emails: I was supposed to be doing the long journey from university to my home on the day of counting but I could not resist the excitement of being in front of the TV or the computer to follow the results as they come in. Although India has many serious problems like poverty and illiteracy, it was able to maintain its democratic credentials. This is in contrast to the experience of India's peers who have failed to establish democracy as a rule of law after their independence.
1234 The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says: The mood is sombre at the BJP headquarters. Journalists and policemen outnumber politicians. A few of them are speaking to the media but none of the top leaders are present.
1225 The BBC's Sanjaya Jena in Bhubaneswar says: Although the BJP has suffered severe losses in Orissa, the party has succeeded in polarising votes in its favour in the district which witnessed anti-Christian riots last year. One of the BJP's candidates, Manoj Pradhan, is in jail charged with murder and rioting. He is leading comfortably.
1222 The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says: It now appears that the Congress-led UPA alliance is moving towards a decisive win. The results seem to prove that India's national parties are not in terminal decline as many suspected: the Congress and BJP will possibly end up with more than 300 seats together, the highest aggregate in over a decade.
1208 Congress senior official Motilal Vora isn't shy about his party's prospects. He tells the Press Trust of India: "We will sweep the election. The Congress and its allies will form the government."
1139The BBC's Shilpa Kannan in Delhi says: Celebrations have begun at the Congress party headquaters in Delhi. Supporters are arriving here from all over and the police have barricaded the street.
Congress supporters are enjoying themselves - but might it be premature?
1130 The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in West Bengal says: After the third round of counting, there is a clear sign of upset here. The Left's citadel is crumbling and it seems Congress and their allies are benefitting.
1127 The BBC's Asit Jolly in Punjab says: It seems the Congress aren't getting it their own way everywhere. Initial trends show the SAD-BJP and Congress evenly placed here. The Congress leadership had been predicting a sweep in their favour in the border state.
1123 On the CNN-ibn channel Balbir Punj, leader of the BJP, says: "The results are unexpected. We are disappointed with the results. We have learnt our lesson."
1109 It's been a breathless few hours - rumours, results and pundits trend-spotting. But finally we have time to recap. It's all about the Congress party - they're making huge gains on their rivals and look set to be the main party of government again.
zenx in Bangalore tweets:
I hope the BJP figures out that there's work to be done (beyond polarizing ppl) when not in power too. Grassroots stuff.
1103 The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says: The writing on the wall - or television screens - seems to be clear. A return of the Congress-led alliance UPA seems fairly certain now. But in the unpredictable battleground of Indian politics, pundits and pollsters have been proved wrong too many times. Perhaps that's the reason why morning newspapers are all playing safe. A day that counts, they say. It sure does.
1100 The BBC's Sanjaya Jena in Bhubaneswar says: Initial trends suggest Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's BJD (Biju Janata Dal) party is sweeping assembly and parliamentary seats. I have just returned from Mr Patnaik's residence. It's jubilant scenes there. Large numbers of reporters are waiting outside for his reaction.
Rakesh A.Babrekar from Nasik Maharashtra, India emails: Wait and watch the game for power begin.
1038 First declared result! The Kannur constituency in Kerala - previously a bastion of Communist/Marxist parties - has gone to the Congress. Another sign that it's going to be a good day for the Congress.
Amit from Cincinnati, US, e-mails: I wish I were in India following the vote counting. I am glued to the internet trying online TV. My finger will go sour pressing 'refresh' button. I am looking at Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu with special interest. Hope India will get a stable government.
1012 The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says: Varun Gandhi - the BJP's controversial candidate who is the grandson of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - is leading in the seat he is fighting for in Uttar Pradesh. Mr Gandhi got into trouble for allegedly making hate-speeches against the Muslims during his campaign. He was even arrested and spent a fortnight in jail.
Milton Nkosi the BBC's South Asia bureau editor in Delhi says: I have just driven past the prime minister's residence. There are uniformed guards at the gate plus a plain clothes security guard in a grey safari suit. It looks pretty peaceful and normal. You'd never say that the whole country is waiting for this nail-biting result to decide who will ultimately drive through these gates everyday and call it home!
Congress folks start celebrating already. Little premature!
0947 The BBC's Chris Morris in Delhi says: After five rounds of voting spread over a month, it's quite a relief to reach results day.
The numbers are coming in thick and fast, and the local TV channels are talking at a hundred miles an hour. But they need to conserve some energy. They could be talking for several days yet!
0942The BBC's John Mary in Trivandrum says: Early trends indicate that the ruling Left coalition LDF in Kerala is in for a drubbing. Its lead is limited to just five seats while the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front is leading in the rest of the 15 seats. This would be a reversal of 2004, when the LDF got 18 out of 20 seats.
0935 The BBC's Omer Farooq in Hyderabad says: The contest in Andhra Pradesh is between Congress, trying to retain power for a second term, and the opposition Telugu Desam Party's (TSD) Chandrababu Naidu trying to make a comeback after five years. This year saw the highest ever turnout at 73%. This has been attributed to the political debut of popular film star Chiranjeevi.
0931 Time for a little delve into the whos whats and wheres: The Third Front (see Sanjeev's 0925 comment) are a collection of Communist and regional parties - including Mayawati's BSP. They're hoping to break the grip on power at national level of the BJP and Congress.
0925 The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava in Delhi says: Early trends show serious reverses likely for the Communists in their stronghold of Kerala and West Bengal. Blow to the Third Front prospects.
0920 The BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi in Lucknow: Counting has begun in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. The administration has banned victory processions fearing clashes between supporters of political parties. The state is the playing ground of India's most powerful Dalit (low-caste) leader Mayawati.
0911 For those of you not nose-deep in Indian political textbooks, there are 543 seats being contested.
0910 Even more trends: Doordarshan TV channel reports Congress and allies leading in 106 seats, BJP and partners ahead in 52, Third Front in 30.
0905The BBC's Amarnath Tewary in Patna says: Patna wears a deserted look as people are watching poll results updates on TV channels. The two main political leaders of Bihar state - RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar - have glued themselves before TV sets in their residences.
0900 More trends! The moment it's written, it's out of date. Congress and allies are leading in 52 seats while the BJP and partners are ahead in 28 seats.
0856 The counting has been going for a matter of minutes, but already pundits are spotting trends. According to the state-run TV channel Doordarshan, Congress and its allies are leading in six seats, BJP plus partners are ahead in three seats.
0853 The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says: I'm at the NP Bengali school in central delhi, one of the main counting centres. There is an air of anticipation. A few minutes ago the sealed ballot boxes were carried from a strongroom into the counting centre. There's a lot of security but also a festive atmosphere.
The men next in line both in the BJP and the Congress - Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi - may not be in a tearing hurry to form the government. They will not like to be seen as power hungry and if their parties fail to get the numbers, they will prefer to occupy the opposition space.
0830 The BBC's Narayan Bareth in Jaipur says: Counting has begun in all 25 seats amid tight security in Rajasthan. Riot police and paramilitary troops have been deployed in the state. The government has banned political processions and gathering of five or more people. This is to prevent any caste clashes which claimed nearly 70 lives in the state in 2007 and 2008.
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