Modi Vs Gandhi: Who will win?
Modi Vs Gandhi: Who Will Win? Today\'s election results will deliver the verdict on an intense campaign that was seen by many as a direct battle between the Gandhis, who head the Congress, and Narendra Modi, the BJP\'s prime ministerial candidate.
Rahul Gandhi's bid to give his party a third consecutive term was called lacklustre even by allies, and his speeches at rallies up and down the country in recent months were far paler than Mr Modi's electrifying campaign, during which the BJP leader repeatedly derided Mr Gandhi, 43, and his mother Sonia for keeping India poor.
Mr Gandhi fronted the campaign for the Congress. He is party vice-president; his mother is chief.
Exit polls show the Congress may be saddled with its worst-ever performance.
The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty gave India its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, and grandson, Rajiv, both held the post subsequently, and both were assassinated.
By some measures, the Congress' first family was in decline long before the parliamentary election; it has not won a majority in decades.
But few would write off the clan completely even if today''s result is humiliating. Sonia Gandhi, described as the power behind the prime ministerial throne occupied by Manmohan Singh, delivered Congress its worst result to date in 1999. She then led the party to victory in the next two elections.
During this election, Mr Modi contrasted his humble past as the low-caste son of a tea seller with Mr Gandhi's privileged and cloistered life in plush districts of the capital.
In one recent newspaper interview, he said the Gandhi family's leadership could come under threat if the party fails to win 100 of parliament's 543 seats, as some polls predict.
The scale of Mr Modi's antipathy to the Gandhis was on display at the start of the campaign last year, when he launched the construction of the world's tallest statue, a Rs. 2,030 crore, 182-metre tall homage to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Prime Minister Nehru's deputy and Home Minister, who was often at odds with him.
Mr Modi sees Sardar Patel as a symbol of an India imagined without the dynasty, who would have led the country down a different, right-wing path if he had not been thwarted by the socialist and atheist Nehru.
"Every Indian regrets Sardar Patel did not become the first prime minister. Had he been the first prime minister, the country's fate and face would have been completely different," Modi said at the time.
Mr Modi has said that if he is elected, his government will not practice "vendetta" politics or witch-hunts.
Going by his record in Gujarat, Mr Modi prefers to move methodically against his opponents - often with the help of close aide Amit Shah, who held multiple posts in the Gujarat government and led his campaign in strategically vital Uttar Pradesh.
After Mr Modi took office as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, political analysts say Mr Shah, a former stockbroker, helped him consolidate power by squeezing Congress loyalists out of non-state institutions, such as the state's banking and dairy cooperatives, which are economically powerful and influence the lives of millions of voters.
Mr Modi is now the longest-serving chief minister in Gujarat's history, a fact that has helped lure high-profile defectors away from Congress ranks. In the last two years, hundreds of Congress workers have switched sides in the state, including some of its top leaders.
In the hours after the exit polls came out, Congress leaders were quick to shift the blame for any potential loss away from Mr Gandhi's handling of the campaign.
"There are no leadership changes, there are no nights of the long knives, there's no mindless recrimination, and as a political party that has known defeat before we work towards victory again," said Mani Shankar Aiyar, a former minister and family loyalist.