NEW DELHI/MUMBAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday swept to a huge election victory, giving his party a mandate to pursue policies that put Hindus first, are mainly business-friendly and take a hard line on national security.
Indian stocks hit record highs during trade after official data showed Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was leading in 298 of the 542 seats.
The main opposition Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, was leading in 52 seats.
(Click https://reut.rs/2VXBoxz to view a graphic showing live updates of the election results)
AVINASH PALIWAL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, SOUTH ASIA INSTITUTE, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON, LONDON:
"There will be continuity in foreign policy broadly speaking, both in the region and elsewhere. As far as the region is concerned, the biggest challenges remain Pakistan and the relationship with China."
"In the immediate future, we'll see an intent to calm down relations with Pakistan but that would be transitory in nature. I do not foresee a strategic overhaul as far as India-Pakistan bilateral relations are concerned."
"But the China challenge has to be dealt with by improving India's manufacturing capability, improving India's defense architecture and force posturing. So a lot of work will have to go into strengthening the national vital core, especially of economy and defense."
K.C. SURI, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF HYDERABAD, HYDERABAD:
"Basically, there was no credible alternative to the BJP .. Rahul Gandhi was no match for Modi.
"Especially in a situation when there is a quite a bit of party fragmentation and social division, a nation looks for strong leadership. And the opposition to the incumbent party has been fragmented, scattered and lacked credibility. Hence, people voted for the incumbent party.
NALIN KOHLI, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, BJP, NEW DELHI
"It's a stamp of approval by voters on the honest and decisive leadership of Prime Minister Modi, the performance and delivery of development by his government and the promise of further consolidation in the future"
SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY, SENIOR MEMBER, BJP (on Twitter)
"I am happy that I was right that economy is not an overpowering factor if Hindutva and anti corruption are the campaign issues. So we escaped incompetent macro economic performance. But if economy collapses then it will become an issue"
ABHISHEK MANU SINGHVI, LEADER, CONGRESS PARTY:
"Rahul Gandhi has led from the front ... he fought a very good election. We have to bow down to the electorate's mandate," Singhvi told NDTV.
RAHUL VERMA, FELLOW AT CENTRE FOR POLICY RESEARCH, NEW DELHI:
"People have trusted him (Modi) and, despite economic concerns, they are ready to give him another chance,
"And the Congress party has not been able to improve at all. The one big story is the emerging challenge for the Congress to remain a national alternative to the BJP. That now is under question."
SAYAN BANERJEE, RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX, U.K.:
"The BJP has been able to do what seemed impossible. It is because they played the caste-game very well and faced a disunited opposition.
"This mandate would only encourage the social conservative wing of the BJP - they will double down on the Hindi versus Muslim polarization politics."
MAIDUL ISLAM, PROFESSOR, CENTRE FOR STUDIES IN SOCIAL SCIENCES, KOLKATA:
"I think they (BJP) are going to push for more aggressive nationalism because that has actually played well. But at the same time, they will balance it out with populist policies at the ground level. That's going to be the combination"
MADAN SABNAVIS, CHIEF ECONOMIST, CARE RATINGS LTD, MUMBAI:
"The immediate challenges (for Modi's government) are to address employment, the issue of agricultural income and revive the banking sector... it is a case of making sure that you pick up in places where things haven't been that successful and work on it."
JAGANNADHAM THUNUGUNTLA, RESEARCH HEAD, CENTRUM WEALTH, MUMBAI:
"The thumping victory for BJP as per the early trends surpassing its winning tally of 2014 has pleasantly surprised even the bulls ... the continuation of policies and reforms is an added comfort ... the narrative should come back to employment, economy and earnings."
SACHIN SHAH, FUND MANAGER, EMKAY INVESTMENT MANAGERS, MUMBAI:
"At a time when there is uncertainty over economic growth, political stability and continuity allow an economy to progress and rise above hurdles over a period of time. So this outcome offers hope that policy reforms will go in the right direction."
R. SIVAKUMAR, HEAD OF FIXED INCOME, AXIS MUTUAL FUND, MUMBAI:
"Investors globally are positive when there is stability in any country. For global investors, political stability and continuity is an important factor while taking a view on investing in any country. This will keep India on the radar of global equity investors."
RAJEEV PAWAR, HEAD OF INVESTMENTS, EDELWEISS FINANCIAL, MUMBAI:
"As expected markets have rallied but for this rally to be sustained concrete steps are needed to address liquidity and credit stress. Revival, reflation and reform should be the mantra going ahead."
ARVIND MAYARAM, INDIA'S FORMER FINANCE SECRETARY, NEW DELHI:
"Global head winds are gathering and internally fundamentals of the economy are weak. Unless there is a major paradigm shift in designing economic policies, whoever forms the government, the country's economy will run into very rough weather."
RITESH JAIN, FORMER CIO, BNP PARIBAS ASSET MANAGEMENT, VANCOUVER:
"We need a solid reform process, which is a long-term process, and monetary policy support to shore up liquidity in the system ... the consumption boom is tapering down, you need an investment boom, and the result of this election will at least open up that foreign capital to invest in our economy."
(Reporting by New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru news bureaus; Editing by Richard Borsuk and Darren Schuettler)