Nitish Kumar looked set for a third term as Bihar chief minister on Sunday as the grand alliance surged past the majority mark and left the BJP-led coalition far behind in the counting of votes for one of India’s most politically-crucial states.

Data from the election commission’s website for 240 of the state’s 243 seats showed the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance led in 166 seats, an emphatic victory over the NDA that could only win around 66 seats, belying all predictions of a closely-contested election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Nitish and congratulated him on the poll victory. “Had a telephone conversation with Shri @NitishKumar & congratulated him on the victory,” Modi tweeted. Congratulations also poured in from Congress president Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

“It was a very difficult fight. On the one hand were moneybags and on the other were principles. It is a victory of principles over moneybags,” Janata Dal(United) chief Sharad Yadav said.

This is the second straight electoral setback for the BJP after its massive Lok Sabha win last year and a victory in a string of state polls. It was swept aside in the Capital by the Aam Aadmi Party earlier this year.

The state elections assumed national significance during a bitter, high-octane campaign where Modi addressed 30 rallies and may lead to opposition parties coming together nationally. This may cost the government dearly in the upcoming winter session of Parliament where a belligerent Opposition is likely to stall the NDA’s legislative agenda.

The massive victory capped a morning of confusion where different television channels showed wildly-varying tallies with the NDTV, India Today and Times Now showing the NDA comfortably ahead while local channels in Patna gave the edge to the grand alliance. The national networks corrected their figures later in the day with NDTV reporting that the error possibly came from the consortium providing counting data to the three channels.

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