Modi takes India with eye-popping margin of victory

Narendra Modi's BJP was the first party to win outright in 30 years. It was a stunning triumph for Modi, who ran a presidential-style election campaign promising development and economic growth.

Anupam Nath/AP
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporter wears a mask of his leader Narendra Modi and celebrates preliminary results outside the party office in Gauhati, India, Friday, May 16, 2014.

Right-wing Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi swept to power in a historic landslide victory in Indian elections, official results released on Friday showed.

Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an outright victory, the first single party to do so for 30 years, with at least 279 of the 543 parliament seats up for grabs. The ruling Congress party, which has dominated Indian politics for the last 65 years under the Gandhi family, was humiliated, reduced to its worst showing ever.

The results were a stunning personal triumph for Modi, who ran a presidential-style election campaign promising development and economic growth that would bring jobs and services after several years of slowing growth and nearly double-digit inflation.

“This is the end of the ice age in Indian politics,” BJP spokesman Sambit Para told CNN-IBN TV.

“This is a huge meltdown for Congress,” agreed Yashwant Deshmukh, a pollster and political analyst. “The BJP has replaced Congress across the country as the dominant national party.”

Indian stock markets hit record highs on news of Modi’s victory, and the rupee rose on currency markets. Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Modi; he will resign tomorrow.

The scale of the BJP victory, and Modi’s key role in it, means that “power will be more concentrated in the hands of one person than it has been since Indira Gandhi” ruled the country in the 1970s, says Gilles Verniers, an analyst of Indian politics.

The BJP won its highest-ever share of the vote, but still took little more than one-third of the ballots. The Congress party’s share dropped only slightly from recent elections, to around 24 percent, but India’s “first past the post” electoral system ensured a thumping victory for the BJP and its allies, who together won an estimated 335 seats.

Outside BJP headquarters in Delhi a small but joyful crowd gathered in the early afternoon, decked out in orange caps and lotus flower brooches proclaiming their party sympathies. Dancing girls swayed to the rhythm of deafening drums as two elephants, lotus flowers drawn in chalk on their trunks, looked on.

“We are happy because Modi is a true Indian and a good leader,” Parween Singh, a quality control engineer, shouted over the din. “We want jobs and he will definitely bring them.”

The election results ensure a stable government, since the BJP will not need to seek parliamentary allies to ensure its majority, as all Indian governments have been obliged to do for the past three decades. Though Modi is expected to rally regional parties to his coalition in order to boost his position, none will be in a position to impose its demands.

Rahul Gandhi, the current incarnation of the Gandhi dynasty descended from independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru, held his parliamentary seat, but his political future seems uncertain in the wake of his party’s crushing defeat. “I take full responsibility for what has happened,” Mr. Gandhi said in brief statement to reporters.

“Some serious introspection and maybe beyond introspection needs to be done,” acknowledged Congress spokeswoman Ragini Nayak. All the party’s chief ministers in provincial states offered their resignations when the extent of their party’s rout became clear. 

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