New Delhi: India’s triumphant Hindu nationalists declared “the start of a new era” in the world’s second most-populous nation as the ruling Congress declared defeat in elections that laid bare anger about sickly economic growth and rampant corruption.
Narendra Modi, 63, making his first comments on results day in his constituency of Vadodara in his home state of Gujarat, where thousands chanted his name, told supporters that “good times are coming” as he thanked them for their “love” which propelled him and his Hindu nationalist party to a historic election win.
Results showed the BJP on track for the first parliamentary majority by a single party in 30 years. Modi has delivered the BJP’s best result ever, giving it more than the 272 seats it needs to form a government. This is the first parliamentary majority by a single party since 1984.
In a clear message to those who have tagged him a polarising leader, Modi said, “Even if we’ve clear majority to run the government, it’s our responsibility to take everyone along in running India.”
With its allies, the BJP now has over 300 of the 543 parliamentary seats. The stunning numbers provide incontrovertible evidence of the “Modi wave” that the BJP name-dropped for months. The twin headline to Modi’s phenomenal win is the colossal defeat that he has enforced upon the incumbent Congress. Headed by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the party has crashed to its worst performance with less than 50 seats after 10 years in power.
On Friday afternoon, after it became clear that he was the indisputable champion of the election, Modi, who has been governing Gujarat for 13 years, drove to his mother’s house to seek her blessings, promptly tweeting a selfie of their meeting.
He has been elected to parliament from Vadodara and Banaras in Uttar Pradesh, which he is expected to choose as his constituency.
With exit polls predicting a strong result for the BJP, Modi has been in consultations with a series of party leaders over the last few days to decide who will belong in his government. On Saturday, he will land in Delhi and drive to the BJP office for a meeting of its top decision-making body, its parliamentary board.
The Gandhis and other opponents of Modi attacked him in rallies as a divisive leader, citing Gujarat’s communal riots that took place on his watch in 2002. Detractors say Modi did not do enough to stop the violence. He has denied any wrongdoing and the Supreme Court inquiry has found no evidence of his alleged role.
Modi and his core team carefully constructed a presidential-style campaign powered by world-class technology. He has covered 300,000 km since being named the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in September, addressing 457 meetings. When he could not show up, he appeared as a hologram.
In virtually every appearance, Modi reminded voters that he is the son of a lower-caste tea seller, contrasting his humble roots to the priveliged upbringing of Rahul Gandhi, who fronted the Congress campaign against him.
Choosing to steer largely clear of religion and the hardliner right-wing Hindtuva agenda he has pitched in the past, Modi promised that if elected he would recharge an apathetic economy and nationalize the “Gujarat model” of development that his party listed as his main qualification for the country’s top job.
The stunning results exceeded all forecasts, as firecrackers exploded at party offices around the country and sweets were handed out in celebrations that began only a few hours after the first figures filtered out.
This will be the first time after 30 years that a single party is securing a majority on its own after the massive number of 419 seats Rajiv Gandhi got in 1984 in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
Set to take over the Prime Minister next week, Modi tweeted “India has won, good days are coming.”
The BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee had scored an individual tally of 182 seats, both in 1998 and 1999.
The Modi wave threw aside a number of Congress big guns, including 10 ministers like Sushilkumar Shinde, Sachin Pilot, Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid, Kapil Sibal, Ajay Maken, M M Pallam Raju and Sriprakash Jaiswal besides Speaker Meira Kumar.—Agencies