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Saturday 20 September 2014

Modi declares 'victory for India' after historic vote

Dean Nelson New Delhi and Josie Ensor London

Published 17/05/2014 | 02:30

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Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi, the controversial Hindu nationalist leader, declared "India has won" after leading his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory in the biggest election in history.

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His party's tally of 282 seats marked the first time in 30 years that a single party won an Indian general election without needing coalition partners to form a government.

"I want to make the 21st Century India's century," declared the BJP leader in his home state of Gujarat yesterday, after a campaign in which he promised to develop the economy of world's second largest country.

His Congress opponents suffered their worst defeat, with a predicted total of just 44 – a loss of 162 seats from the 2009 election. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress dynasty scion who led his party's general election campaign, congratulated Mr Modi and accepted the blame for the scale of its defeat.

"The Congress Party has done badly and as Congress vice-president, I take full responsibility," he said.

His mother Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party president, said she accepted the people's verdict. "The mandate is clearly against us and we accept it with humility," she said.

In several states, including Rajasthan and Gujarat, the party did not win a single seat, while Mr Modi's BJP drew unexpectedly strong support from Muslim voters.

Victory marked the final rehabilitation for the Gujarat chief minister who was regarded as a pariah over his failure to stop the killing of more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, in riots in 2002.

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, congratulated him in a telephone conversation yesterday and invited him to visit Britain.

"Mr Modi said he would be delighted to accept the Prime Minister's invitation," said a spokesman for Mr Cameron.

Mr Modi was also congratulated by the out-going Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and spoke on the telephone to Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister, who offered his "good wishes on the Bhartaya Janata Party's impressive victory".

Pakistan hopes his majority will lead to new peace talks.

Leader

The BJP leader claimed his victory on Friday with a short statement on Twitter. "India has won. Good days are coming," he wrote shortly before he went to seek blessings from his mother in his home state of Gujarat.

Television channels aired footage of an emotional Mr Modi saluting his mother with folded hands and touching her feet, a traditional gesture of respect.

Outside the BJP's Delhi election headquarters, supporters danced Bollywood-style and set off firecrackers.

Mr Modi (63) won his landslide with a presidential-style campaign which focused on his reputation for strong government in Gujarat.

He will now face pressure to deliver a quick improvement in the economy, growing at its slowest rate in a decade. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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