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BJP supporters celebrate in Mumbai. Photo: Punit Paran/JPE/AFP/Getty Images

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP are surpassing even the most optimistic predictions as election results pour in from across the country today.

Why it matters: Modi was able to make this election into a referendum on himself. He'll return to office for another five-year term with a massive mandate.

Catch up quick:

  • The massive election — with 900 million eligible voters and 1 million polling places — unfolded over five weeks.
  • With votes at last being tallied today, the BJP leads or has won in 293 of 543 total seats. That's five times as many as Congress, the primary opposition party.
  • Congress, the party of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, led India for all but 12 years between 1947 and 2014. Modi has now established the BJP as India's dominant party by an enormous margin.

Flashback: Modi campaigned in 2014 as the man to invigorate India's economy. The results there have been mixed: growth is solid, but unemployment has ticked upwards and rural India has struggled on Modi's watch.

  • This time around, he whipped up nationalist fervor after a nuclear standoff with Pakistan in February.

Modi did make good on another campaign promise to expand India's presence on the world stage.

  • Not since Nehru's era "has India been so engaged in such a wide range of global issues" driven by "the sheer personality of the prime minister himself," argues the Carnegie Endowment's Ashley Tellis.
  • But Tellis contends that India won't "realize its great power ambitions" unless Modi carries out economic reforms at home, strengthens institutions and protects "the nation's internal cohesion."
  • "At a time when India’s external environment has grown more precarious because of the weakening liberal international order, China’s continuing ascendancy ... and the prevailing capriciousness in Washington, continued stumbles in New Delhi will end up being cumulatively costly and will subvert India’s larger ambitions," he writes.

What to watch: Modi’s campaign was "heavy on ethno-religious dog whistles," leading to fears "a victorious, emboldened Modi would seek far-reaching changes to India’s constitutional order," James Crabtree writes in Foreign Policy.

  • However, Crabtree argues that Modi’s record thus far has been “of piecemeal rather than radical change."
  • "[T]he risk India faces is more of the same: a gradual continuation of the erosion of liberties and institutions and occasional religious thuggery."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

6 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.

11 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.