India’s triumphant Hindu nationalists declared “a new era” in the world’s biggest democracy yesterday after leader Narendra Modi propelled them to a stunning win, promising to revitalize the sickly economy.
Preliminary results at the end of the marathon six-week election showed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Indian prime ministerial candidate Modi on track for the first parliamentary majority by a single party in 30 years.
Most of the poverty-wracked country’s 1.2 billion people have never witnessed such dominance having grown up in an era of fractious coalition politics. Modi, the 63-year-old son of a tea seller tainted by anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, wrote on Twitter that “India has won. Good days are coming.”
The stunning results exceeded all forecasts. Firecrackers exploded at BJP offices around the country, sweets were handed out to celebrate and painted elephants paraded in front of party headquarters. The triumph redraws India’s political map, elevating the BJP to a pan-national power, handing Modi a huge mandate for change and heaping humiliation on the ruling Gandhi political dynasty.
The immediate change Modi will need to deliver is an improvement in the economy, which is growing at its slowest rate in a decade, and his commitment to the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda will be closely watched by India’s 150 million Muslims.
“It is dawn of a new era. The lotus has bloomed all over India now,” BJP President Rajnath Singh said, referring to the flower symbol of his party whose previous all-time high was 182 seats in 1999.
“I appeal to my workers that even in this historic victory they maintain discipline and calm, against any section or people,” he added, hinting at the fears of religious tensions.
Preliminary figures from the Election Commission showed the BJP winning more than the 272 seats required for a majority on its own in the 543-seat parliament, with victories by its allies taking it easily in excess of 330.
The Congress Party, the national secular force that has run India for all but 13 years since independence, was set to crash to its worst ever result after a decade in power.
“Modi promised the moon and stars to the people. People bought that dream,” senior Congress leader and spokesman Rajeev Shukla told reporters as preliminary results showed the party winning only 42 seats.
Outgoing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who said in January that Modi would be “disastrous for the country” after “presiding over the massacre of innocents,” called to congratulate him, his office said.
India’s Bombay Stock Exchange index surged more than 6 percent in the morning, but tapered its gains to close up 0.9 percent.
Investors and the wider public have rediscovered heady — many say unrealistic — optimism about the world’s second-most populous nation after years of frustration about weak leadership, rising food prices and corruption.
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