Modi 'sweeping to landslide win'
Published 16/05/2014 | 05:52
Opposition leader Narendra Modi will be India's next prime minister, winning the most decisive victory the country has seen in more than a quarter of a century.
As his overwhelming win became clear, Mr Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and tried to strike a conciliatory note after a lengthy and punishing race.
"I have always said that to govern the nation it is our responsibility to take everyone with us," said Mr Modi, whose slick campaign promised a revival of economic growth.
"I want your blessings so that we can run a government that carries everyone with it."
Although Mr Modi's win was resounding, critics worry that his rise could worsen sectarian tensions between India's majority Hindus and its 138 million Muslims.
A Hindu nationalist, Mr Modi remains a divisive figure in the country of 1.2 billion people, in large part because he, as chief minister of Gujarat state, was in command in 2002 when communal rioting there killed more than 1,000 people - most of them Muslims.
Mr Modi was accused of doing little to stop the rampage, though he denies any wrongdoing and has never been charged with a crime. But critics have often questioned whether he can be a truly secular leader in a country with many faiths.
The Congress party tried to highlight the 2002 riots during the campaign, but Mr Modi's momentum - and laser focus on the ailing economy - carried him to victory.
The outcome was a crushing defeat for the Congress party, which is deeply entwined with the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty that has been at the centre of Indian politics for most of the country's post-independence history.
By Friday evening, Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was winning in enough seats in the lower house of Parliament to exceed the 272-seat majority needed to create a government without forming a coalition with smaller parties, the Election Commission said.
Full results were expected later in the evening or by Saturday morning, but Mr Modi's win was all but assured.
The last time any single party won a majority in India was in 1984, when an emotional nation gave the Congress party a staggering victory of more than 400 seats following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The overwhelming victory gives Mr Modi, a 63-year-old career politician, a strong mandate to govern India at a time of deep social and economic change.
India is in the throes of rapid urbanisation and globalisation just as the youth population skyrockets - with many new voters far less deferential to traditional voting patterns focused on family lineage and caste.
For the young Indian voters, the priorities are jobs and development, which Mr Modi put at the forefront of his campaign.