India PM Modi's key allies stand by him despite surprise weaker showing in election

FILE PHOTO: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses supporters in New Delhi

By Sarita Chaganti Singh and Shivangi Acharya

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Two key regional allies in Narendra Modi's coalition have endorsed him as India's next prime minister, their spokespeople said on Tuesday, after trends showed Modi's party was falling short of a majority in a general election.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Janata Dal (United) said their pre-poll alliance with Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)was intact and they would form the next government.

Their comments came after media speculation that the opposition alliance, which is doing much better than expected, was also in touch with them.

The BJP is leading in 244 of the 543 seats in the directly elected lower house of parliament, according to evening vote count trends, unexpectedly falling short of a majority and raising its reliance on allies to be able to form the next government.

N. Chandrababu Naidu's TDP, based in the southern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh, is currently the second-biggest party in Modi's National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after the BJP. Naidu, who allied with the opposition the last time, has in the past spoken about loan waivers for farmers and privatisation of air and sea ports.

"TDP has a pre-poll alliance with NDA and it will continue, no doubt about that," said party lawmaker K. Ravindra Kumar. "PM Modi and Naidu have congratulated each other."

Party spokesperson Jyothsna Tirunagari said: "TDP has always shared a vision with PM Modi and he remains our PM face."

JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of the poor state of Bihar, has often switched sides and returned to Modi's alliance in January, having earlier helped form an opposition alliance of more than two dozen parties for the general election.

"We are formally with this NDA alliance and will participate in making the government," JD(U) spokesperson Abhishek Jha said. On being asked if the party would support Modi as NDA's prime minister, he said: "Definitely."

The party focuses on issues of Bihar, especially for financial aid and investment to create jobs for its millions of young people.

"These two allies ... need stability at the centre to run their own states, but they will take their own pound of flesh," said Yashwant Deshmukh, founder of polling agency CVoter.

(Additional reporting by Rishika Sadam; Editing by Alex Richardson)