Narendra Modi Is Set To Be India's Next Prime Minister, And Here's Why This Matters

Exit polls from India's biggest election came in Monday, and it looks like India may have elected Narendra Modi as its next leader. Results will formally be announced on Friday, but two exit polls show a strong lead for Modi that will likely give his party the 220 parliament seats needed to make him prime minister. If Modi's not ringing a bell for you, this is the guy who used holograms to appear in several places on the campaign trail at once.

Almost a million polling places had to be set up to support the massive election, in which a record 66.4 percent of Indians turned out to vote. That's 551 million people, and they've been voting since April 7. For comparison, about 127 million people voted in the last U.S. election, with a smaller, 58.2 percent turnout.

India runs on a parliamentary system, meaning a hodgepodge of political parties compete for seats and control of the government, which is based in New Delhi. A political party needed to get at least 220 seats to have the power to elect a prime minister, and exit polls show Modi may have secured many more than that. Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, usually referred to as BJP, which is the more conservative of the two big parties in India. The other, called the National Congress party, is known in part for the support it garners from India's Muslim population.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Even though Modi likely won the seats needed to become prime minister, that doesn't mean he and BJP will control the government. To solely control the Lok Sabha, India's 543-seat lower house of government, a political party would need to grab 273 seats, which isn't likely to happen.

But it's still a big, big deal for India. Here are a few reasons why:

1. BJP wasn't in power before

Mark Renders/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The National Congress party, which is currently in power, is controlled by a powerful family that's part of India's ruling political elite, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, her son. But prior to the election they were set for one of their worst defeats ever, and early results back that up. A big shift in power in the world's biggest democracy is worth paying attention to.

Some have said this is India's most important election since 1977, when the National Congress party first had its power over the country's politics challenged. The power shift could have major implications for India's economy.

2. Modi is a controversial figure

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Modi was head of Gujarat, his home state, when riots broke out in 2002 that led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Women were raped and children were burned alive while police did nothing. And Modi is suspected of having links to a secret police assassination squad, according to The New York Times.

Indian elections are usually split along religious lines and given his history Modi, a Hindu, has put the country's Muslims on alert. India is about 14 percent Muslim.

3. The elections' impact could affect the U.S.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As if the biggest election ever isn't interesting enough, India's election will have foreign policy implications, especially when it comes to trading and the economy. India may pursue closer trading ties with China, Japan, Pakistan, or the U.S., given Modi's track record of bringing foreign investors to Gujarat.