Sri Lanka's strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa was poised to stage a political comeback on Thursday as his party took an unassailable lead and was set for a landslide victory in the twice-postponed general elections, according to results announced so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first world leaders to congratulate Rajapaksa on the outcome of the elections and said the two sides will work together to further advance all areas of bilateral cooperation and to take their special ties to ever newer heights.
"Thank you PM @narendramodi for your congratulatory phone call. With the strong support of the people of #SriLanka, I look forward to working with you closely to further enhance the long-standing cooperation between our two countries. Sri Lanka & India are friends & relations," 74-year-old Rajapaksa tweeted.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has polled more votes than its rivals, scoring over 60 per cent of the total votes in the 16 seats officially declared so far from the South, dominated by the Sinhala majority community. The party won 13 out of 16 seats.
Unofficial results indicate that the SLPP would comfortably win at least 17 out of the 22 districts on offer.
Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a tweet described the results as a "magnificent victory" for the ruling party.
"The SLPP has recorded a magnificent victory according to the official results declared so far. I firmly believe that by tomorrow I would be able to form the parliament which is needed to implement my election manifesto," he said in a statement.
Rajapaksa's party is expected to win control of the 225-member assembly by a comfortable margin, according to analysts.
In Galle district, the SLPP won seven out of nine seats on offer while in the neighbouring Matara district they won six out of seven seats on offer.
The nearest rival is the new party formed by former presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa who has relegated his mother party, the United National Party, of former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe to the fourth place even below the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.
The SJB has won only three seats from both districts.
Wickremesinghe's party is struggling to reach the five per cent mark needed to qualify for any seat in the entire island. He is facing the danger of losing his parliamentary seat for the first time since July 1977.
In the polling division results from other districts where counting is in progress, the SLPP has taken unassailable leads, sources said.
In the Tamil minority dominated north, the main Tamil party -- Tamil National Alliance -- despite bagging a few polling divisions had also suffered unexpected reversals at the hands of SLPP's Tamil allies -- the Eelam People's Democratic Party.
The counting began in the morning after the polls were closed on Wednesday.
As the counting of votes began, SLPP founder and its National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa -- who is the younger brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with the eldest being Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa -- said that the party is all set to form a new government.
Lankan President Gotabaya hopes for a two-thirds majority for the SLPP so that he can amend the Constitution to restore presidential powers curbed by a 2015 constitutional change.
The president is not a candidate while care-taker prime minister Mahinda is running from the north western capital district of Kurunegala.
PM Modi congratulates Sri Lankan counterpart
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday congratulated his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa on his party's performance in the parliamentary elections, with early trends showing that it was headed for a landslide win.
Modi also commended the government and the electoral institutions of Sri Lanka for effectively organising the elections despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office said.
He also appreciated the Sri Lankan people for their enthusiastic participation in the elections, and said this reflected the strong democratic values shared by both countries.
Sri Lanka's powerful Rajapaksa family-run Sri Lanka People's Party appeared to be heading for a landslide win in the country's twice-postponed parliamentary election, according to early results announced on Thursday.
Modi noted that the incoming results of the elections indicate an impressive electoral performance by the SLPP, and conveyed his congratulations and best wishes to Rajapaksa, the statement said.
In a tweet, Modi said: "It was a pleasure to speak to you. Once again, many congratulations. We will work together to further advance all areas of bilateral cooperation and to take our special ties to ever newer heights."
Rajapaksa also thanked Modi on Twitter for the congratulatory phone call.
"With the strong support of the people of Sri Lanka, I look forward to working with you closely to further enhance the long-standing cooperation between our two countries," Rajapaksa said.
"Sri Lanka and India are friends and relations," he said.
Recalling their cordial and fruitful previous interactions, the two leaders reiterated their shared commitment to strengthen the age-old and multi-dimensional India-Sri Lanka relationship, the statement said.
They stressed the significance of early progress in all spheres of bilateral cooperation.
Modi informed Rajapaksa about the establishment of an international airport in the Buddhist pilgrimage city of Kushinagar in India, and said the city looked forward to welcoming visitors from Sri Lanka at an early date.
The leaders also agreed to remain in close touch as both countries address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and resolved to take bilateral relations to newer heights in the coming days.