Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have swept to power in the world's largest democracy, winning a straight majority without the need for allies – the first such victory for a single party in three decades. Full coverage »

2014 election results

Andaman and Nicobar Islands11
Andhra Pradesh19202142
Arunachal Pradesh112
Dadra and Nagar Haveli11
Daman and Diu11
Himachal Pradesh44
Jammu and Kashmir336
Madhya Pradesh27229
Tamil Nadu23739
Uttar Pradesh732580
West Bengal2423442

Polling dates

Who’s who?

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Chief minister, Gujarat

Narendra Modi is the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata party, the Hindu nationalist opposition to the incumbent Congress-led coalition government, and the favourite to win the election. Mr Modi made his name – in good ways and bad – as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat for the past 12 years.

His enemies say he is a Hindu fundamentalist who would undermine India’s secular state if he took power, and they accuse him of collusion at worst and negligence at best in the Gujarat riots of 2002, in which hundreds of Muslims were killed after a deadly attack on Hindu pilgrims on a train.

Mr Modi denies the accusations, saying he is not interested in communal politics. His campaign has focused almost entirely on his economic record. Indian and foreign investors believe he is business-friendly and would push forward long-delayed infrastructure projects across India.

Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley

Heads BJP opposition in upper house

A lawyer by profession, Arun Jaitley is an ambitious politician and a senior figure in the Bharatiya Janata party who has vigorously backed Narendra Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate and would probably be rewarded with a senior cabinet post in a BJP-led government if Mr Modi succeeds.

“Do you need a weak, humble man or a tall politician?” asked Mr Jaitley recently, singing Mr Modi’s praises and referring to his political stature rather than his stocky physique. “Modi has marked the revival of large mass rallies. There is a charisma.”

In the previous National Democratic Alliance coalition led by the BJP, Mr Jaitley held the portfolios of commerce and industry, and law and justice. He is currently leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.

Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal

Founder and leader, Aam Aadmi

A former tax official turned social activist, Arvind Kejriwal leads the Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, party, which has vowed a radical shake-up of the political system to root out entrenched corruption. Just a year old, the AAP stunned India in December with its unexpectedly strong performance in a state election in Delhi.

Mr Kejriwal was sworn in as chief minister at the head of a minority government, but he resigned after just 49 days, after he was unable to introduce his pet anti-corruption bill into the state legislature.

During his brief tenure as chief minister, Mr Kejriwal was accused of failing to make the transition from activism to governance. But the AAP, and Mr Kejriwal, have generated enthusiasm across India among voters looking for an alternative to more established political parties. He has also adopted clever guerrilla campaign tactics, which have kept him and his party in the media spotlight.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi

Vice-president, Indian National Congress

Great-grandson, grandson and son of prime ministers from India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Rahul Gandhi is the vice-president and de facto leader of the Congress party, and its presumed prime ministerial candidate in the unlikely event of its victory in upcoming polls.

Although he ascended to the leadership of the 130-year-old party – still formally headed by his mother Sonia – as his birthright, Mr Gandhi, 43, appears a reluctant politician, uncomfortable in the job and in the public gaze.

Over the past decade, he has visited impoverished families to position himself as the champion of the downtrodden, and tried to overhaul Congress’s internal workings. But his efforts have yielded few results, with Congress battered in recent state elections.

He is widely seen as well-meaning but ineffectual, and an uninspiring and at times mystifying public speaker. His 2013 comment that “power is poison” raised further doubts about his appetite for politics and his will to win.

Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi

President, Indian National Congress

President of the Indian National Congress party, Italy-born Sonia Gandhi is the daughter of a building contractor and the widow of former India prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Despite shying away from politics following her husband’s assassination in 1991, Mrs Gandhi later joined the party and has been lauded for leading Congress to success in the 2004 election, in which the Bharatiya Janata party and its leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee, were unexpectedly ousted.

Mrs Gandhi, often derided by her political enemies for her foreign origins, always appears in public dressed in a traditional sari and speaks in Hindi or heavily accented English. She appointed technocrat Manmohan Singh to the post of prime minister and is expected to try to propel her son, Rahul Gandhi, to the top post, preserving the power of the country’s ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Her stoic, secular leadership and rhetoric in support of the poor have won her supporters in the past but her image has been tarnished more recently by a series of high-profile corruption scandals in the party, and popular resentment of dynastic power.

Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of India

Manmohan Singh has been India’s prime minister since 2004, and as he prepares to leave office opinions on his premiership are anything but charitable. Accused of being weak, Mr Singh surprised many when he returned to office following an impressive victory in 2009 general elections, but his second term has been marred by a series of corruption scandals and government inaction.

The technocrat-turned-politician was once celebrated as the architect of economic reforms, which he initiated as finance minister in 1991. But his tenure as prime minister, particularly during the past five years, has been disappointing. Mr Singh has blamed difficult coalition partners for his government’s inability to liberalise the economy further or to attract more foreign investment.

His party faces an uphill task in the upcoming elections. “History will judge me kindly,” the 81-year-old leader said at a press conference earlier this year. Commentators say the unpopularity of his Congress party with voters may not be entirely his fault. The party, which has ruled independent India for a majority of the past 68 years, appears to be in need of fresh ideas.

P Chidambaram

P Chidambaram

Indian finance minister

India’s finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, is one of several people in India’s Congress party pitted against Rahul Gandhi as a potential prime ministerial candidate, although he decided at the last minute not to be a parliamentary candidate and to make way for his son Karti. If he is selected as leader, Mr Chidambaram will be following in the footsteps of Manmohan Singh, who also made the transition from the ministry of finance to 7 Race Course Road, the prime minister’s residence.

A Harvard graduate, he has worked in various parts of the government, including the ministry of home affairs and the ministry of personnel. He was first elected to the lower house of parliament in 1984 to represent Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, a seat to which he has been re-elected five times.

In his latest stint as finance minister, Mr Chidambaram has presided over a halving of economic growth to less than 5 per cent a year and a collapse – albeit temporary – of the rupee triggered by a sharp outflow of capital from emerging markets.

Nandan Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani

Former chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)

The man who coined the phrase “the world is flat”, Nandan Nilekani is running for parliament in the IT hub of Bangalore for India’s ruling Congress party.

One of India’s most recognisable billionaire businessmen, Mr Nilekani came up with the saying while still the chief executive of IT outsourcing group Infosys, which he co-founded in 1981 in the city where he is standing as a candidate. Now after a spell as an appointed bureaucrat he hopes to enter politics, although doubts remain over whether he will emerge victorious.

Mr Nilekani himself is widely respected, both as an icon of Indian business success and for his extensive philanthropic endeavours. Even this, however, may not be sufficient to escape the drag of India’s deeply unpopular Congress government, and thus overturn the majority in his seat held by a well-entrenched opponent from the opposition Bharatiya Janata party.

Akhilesh Yadav

Akhilesh Yadav

Chief minister, Uttar Pradesh

Akhilesh Yadav, who became the youngest chief minister of India’s most politically crucial state Uttar Pradesh, was called the “game changer” when his party swept to victory in state elections two years ago. But far from providing the efficient and dynamic governance expected of him, Mr Yadav has struggled to deliver in the face of massive corruption allegations against his ministers and factionalism within the party.

Mr Yadav’s biggest challenge in 2014 comes from a resurgent BJP and its traditional regional rival, the Bahujan Samaj party. His father and Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav has been at the forefront of setting up a left-led coalition of regional parties, the so-called “third front”. Their hope for a prominent role if a non-BJP, non-Congress front does come to power hinges on winning a good number of seats in UP.

Nitish Kumar

Nitish Kumar

Chief minister, Bihar

Nitish Kumar, the engineer-turned-socialist politician and current chief minister of the Hindi heartland state of Bihar, is credited with putting the state back on track following years of misgovernance and lawlessness. Under his leadership, Bihar has recorded the fastest economic growth (at more than 10 per cent) among Indian states, while rural roads and power supplies have improved and girls have schools to go to.

Mr Kumar broke his alliance with the BJP-led coalition due to his reservations over Narendra Modi’s nomination as the prime ministerial candidate. He sees Mr Modi as a divisive figure, and has been busy selling his own Bihar model of economic development for India in contrast to Mr Modi’s “Gujarat model”. He is part of the 11-party, left-led “third front” alliance, and is a potential kingmaker and strong contender for prime minister.



Chief minister, Tamil Nadu

Chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa Jayaram – known universally just as Jayalalithaa – could become one of the most important power brokers in India’s complex process of post-election coalition bargaining, and even a potential prime ministerial candidate herself.

A former film actress, she is populist in her politics but reclusive in her personal style, appearing rarely in public even while her face is seen ubiquitously on posters festooned around her home state. Yet her popular appeal with Tamil Nadu’s 70m voters now gives her a fighting chance of picking up 30 or more parliamentary seats. This would likely see her party become India’s third largest, after the BJP and Congress, potentially positioning its leader either as an important coalition ally for a victorious Narendra Modi, or a plausible candidate for the very top job under a so-called “third front” government of minor parties, were Mr Modi to fall short.

Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee

Chief minister, West Bengal

Mamata Banerjee, the firebrand chief minister of West Bengal, could be one of the potential kingmakers if India’s general election fails to produce a clear winner. Ms Banerjee has spent a lifetime opposing the Communists in her state, eventually ending their uninterrupted 35-year rule with a landslide victory in state elections in 2011.

Usually dressed in simple cotton sari and flip flops Ms Banerjee carries the image of a mass leader, ready to take to the streets for the poor, the deprived and the working classes. She has been the archetypal revolutionary long before India’s new insurgent Aam Aadmi party arrived on the scene.

Sensing the popular mood against Tata’s Nano car factory, she drove them out of the state, but since taking office has emphasised that she is not against industrialisation. The 59-year-old leader has been part of previous governing coalitions in Delhi, led by both Congress as well as the BJP and is keeping her options open by staying clear of all political formations before elections.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Chief minister, Madhya Pradesh

Three times chief minister of the Hindi heartland state of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a member of the Bharatiya Janata party, is seen as a potential alternative prime ministerial candidate if the party’s current candidate Narendra Modi fails to win enough allies to forge a ruling coalition.

Mr Chouhan has won accolades for dramatic improvements to the state’s infrastructure, especially roads and the power supply. But he has also introduced popular welfare schemes, especially targeting young girls and women, boosting his reputation for pursuing “inclusive” development.

Despite a close association with the rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, which he joined as an adolescent, Mr Chouhan has made positive overtures to his state’s Muslim voters, many of whom view him favourably. Mr Chouhan has denied any aspiration to the premiership, and describes Mr Modi, a fellow BJP chief minister, as an “elder brother”.

Prakash Karat

Prakash Karat

General secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Prakash Karat is an old-fashioned, well-educated leftist who has been general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) since 2005. His wife Brinda Karat is also a CPI (M) politician, and they work at the party headquarters in Delhi which is adorned with hammers and sickles and a bust of Lenin.

The party has fallen on hard times since it lost control of its West Bengal stronghold three years ago, but Mr Karat has been a prime mover in the effort to create a “third front” of leftist and regional parties to challenge the duopoly of Congress and the BJP that have long dominated Indian politics.

At the launch of the 11-party “third front” in February, Mr Karat said those in the loose alliance shared the aims of strengthening the democratic system, protecting secularism, pursuing “people-oriented” economic development and promoting a federal India in which individual states have more powers.

Mayawati Kumari

Mayawati Kumari

Former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh

Mayawati Kumari, the leader of the Bahujan Samaj party of low-caste Hindus in one of India’s poorest states, Uttar Pradesh, is often in the news for building her own expensive statues with taxpayers’ money or having lavish birthday parties where her supporters shower her with money and gold.

Her core constituency of Dalit voters has largely been unmoved by ridicule of their leader’s brazen show of wealth and power, but she is aware of the need for broader support from other social classes. Sensing recent public anger against corruption, she had a low-key birthday in January.

If her party does end up with a decent tally after the voting, she could be a willing partner in any of the various alliances capable of forming the next government. She could even throw her hat into the ring for the premiership that would make her India’s first Dalit prime minister.

Naveen Patnaik

Naveen Patnaik

Chief minister of Odisha

Suave and soft-spoken Naveen Patnaik is a member of India’s ruling elite, a product of Doon school. He is a popular chief minister of the eastern state of Odisha where he is serving his third term. He was a minister in the government of Atal Behari Vajpayee but severed ties with the BJP-led alliance following the anti-Christian riots in the state in 2007-08.

Mr Patnaik, whose father Biju Patnaik also enjoyed immense popularity in Odisha, has been praised for running the state’s economy well. His party Biju Janata Dal is part of the 11-party third front alliance. “There is a need for a stable, transparent and secular government at the centre that can fulfil the aspirations of people of our country. Neither Congress nor BJP are in a position to provide such a government,” Mr Patnaik has said. His clean image and efficiency in providing a good stable administration make him an attractive candidate for premiership.

Raj Thackeray

Raj Thackeray

Founder and president, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena

Raj Thackeray founded the rightwing Maharashtra Navnirman Sena – or Maharashtra Renaissance Army – after breaking away from the Shiv Sena, a conservative Mumbai-based Hindu nationalist party led by his uncle, the late Bal Thackeray.

Mr Thackeray has announced that the MNS will support Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the opposition Bharatiya Janata party, in the upcoming general election. The decision marks a significant shift in sentiment, as Mr Thackeray has criticised Mr Modi vehemently in the past – in particular for focusing excessively on his successes as chief minister of Gujarat.

Nevertheless, plans by MNS to contest seats in the cities of Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, all party strongholds, could threaten the BJP by dividing the anti-incumbency vote against Congress and its allies. In particular, the MNS is pitting itself against the Shiv Sena, a longstanding BJP ally now led by Mr Thackeray’s estranged cousin.

Omar Abdullah

Omar Abdullah

Chief minister, Jammu and Kashmir

Omar Abdullah, the scion of Indian Kashmir’s most influential political family and the state’s chief minister, recently scoffed at suggestions that India’s upcoming general elections may see a direct contest between the country’s two main political parties, calling the suggestion of a “two-horse race” misplaced arrogance and emphasising the importance of regional and other parties.

He was a junior minister in the BJP-led government of prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and resigned in protest against the Gujarat riots in 2002, in which hundreds of Muslims died. His party, the National Conference, has been part of the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance.

Although he has ruled out ever joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance again, in India’s unpredictable electoral politics strange bedfellows do come together.

Jaganmohan Reddy

Jaganmohan Reddy

Member of Parliament for Kadapa

Jaganmohan Reddy has been fighting for the past year, seemingly in vain, to keep Andhra Pradesh in one piece. Mr Reddy’s YSR Congress party has stridently opposed plans to divide the southern Indian state into two that will create a new entity called Telangana. He won admirers for the high-profile hunger strike he conducted against the split, despite the fact that he was held in jail on corruption-related charges during part of his effort.

Now he is set to play a crucial role in one of the country’s most important swing states, and his party may emerge with more than 20 seats. This would position him among a small band of powerful regional politicians with enough clout to play an important role in any post-election coalition formations – potentially with Narendra Modi’s BJP, or possibly as part of a wider “third front” government of smaller parties.

Battleground states



Delhi accounts for only seven of the 543 elected seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, but its status as the capital of India gives it a disproportionate weight in politics. Its importance in the 2014 election has been further heightened by the upheavals accompanying the state election in the city in December 2013: Congress was resoundingly defeated by the opposition Bharatiya Janata party and by the upstart Aam Aadmi or Common Man party led by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal.

Mr Kejriwal stood against Sheila Dikshit, Congress chief minister of Delhi for the previous 15 years, and ousted her. His minority Delhi government, supported by the remnants of Congress, lasted only 49 days, but the AAP is predicted to complicate the general election calculations of the two main parties by winning at least some urban constituencies in Delhi and other cities across India.



Karnataka is crucial for the prime ministerial hopes of Narendra Modi, as it is the only southern state where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party has a strong presence. It won 19 of the state’s 28 seats in national parliament in the last election in 2009. This time, the state is likely to witness a fairly straight fight between the BJP and Congress.

Congress won the most recent set of state elections in 2013, following a period of BJP rule widely noted for its corruption. But now under Mr Modi’s leadership, the BJP may once again do well. The state also matters because Bangalore, the IT hub that is the state capital, provides one of the most likely settings for a breakthrough for the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi party.

Bangalore shares many characteristics with the AAP’s stronghold of New Delhi, notably a sizeable urban middle class employed in white collar industries, and voters concerned about clean governance and the provision of urban services. The AAP has also recruited a handful of high-profile local candidates, including the former chief financial officer of outsourcing group Infosys, and therefore stands a good chance of performing well in the city’s four constituencies.



For a long period Bihar, the ancient heart of north India, was wracked by lawlessness and extreme poverty, but in recent years the state has seen a turnround under its reformist chief minister Nitish Kumar. The Bharatiya Janata party’s prime ministerial hopeful, Narendra Modi, hopes to win a chunk of Bihar’s 40 parliamentary seats by trying to appeal to the youth and even to Muslims, asking them to vote for development and change, but as in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, voters in Bihar tend to rally behind candidates from their own caste and community.

The BJP’s last-minute tie-up with a regional low-caste leader, Ram Vilas Paswan should help broaden the BJP’s appeal beyond upper caste Hindu votes. Congress, practically non-existent in the state, has partnered Rashtriya Janata Dal, while Nitish Kumar is counting on the support of lower-caste voters as well as the state’s Muslims, who account for more than 16 per cent of the votes.

Worried about losing crucial Muslim votes, Mr Kumar parted ways with his long-time allies in the National Democratic Alliance when the BJP named Mr Modi for prime minister last year. Mr Kumar has been selling his Bihar model of growth as a more viable economic model for India than Mr Modi’s. But can he beat the anti-incumbency swings that characterise most Indian elections and keep his prime ministerial ambitions alive?

Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh

With a population of 200m and 80 of the 543 elected seats in India’s lower house of parliament, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh is at the heart of India’s political battles. The region will be particularly important this year as the opposition Bharatiya Janata party needs votes in northern states to make up for a lack of support in the south and east of the country.

Two decades ago, the Congress party commanded a large part of the vote in UP. But the electorate has since become fragmented, thanks to the rise of regional parties such as the Bahujan Samaj party and the Samajwadi party, which represents the “Other Backward Castes” bloc and is led by political strongman Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Commentators are watching to see which way the Muslim community votes after communal violence in the western part of the state last year, in which 48 people were killed and thousands of Muslims were forced to flee their homes. The SP’s poor handling of the riots may well have alienated the community, which makes up almost 20 per cent of the population.

Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh

In India’s last parliamentary elections in 2009, Andhra Pradesh was a bastion of support for Congress, which won 31 of the southern state’s 42 seats. But the party suffered a setback after Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the chief minister, died in a helicopter crash, precipitating a bitter succession battle.

Denied his late father’s job by the national party leadership, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, resigned from Congress to start his own YSR Congress. With its local support evaporating, Congress decided to split Andhra Pradesh into two states – a decision criticised as a cynical move to bolster its position in the Telangana region, where voters had agitated for a separate state.

Telangana has 17 MPs, and Congress is now expected to ally with the local Telangana Rashtra Samiti party in the region, while other parties, including the YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam party, will battle for supremacy in the other part of the state, now known as Seemandhra.