Global Politics

India's long election ends in a landslide vote for change

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Credit: REUTERS/Amit Dave

Narendra Modi gives a victory sign at a rally in his home state of Gujarat, Friday. Modi will be India's next prime minister after decisively winning parliamentary elections.

In India, supporters of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrated into the night on Friday after a stunning success in parliamentary elections.

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“Everyone expected he [Modi] would win this election,” says the BBC’s Rahul Tandon in Kolkata. “But it is the scale of the victory that has astonished people.”

The BJP has managed to win an absolute majority of seats in parliament. That means they do not need to depend on any other political party to form a government.

“In India,” says Tandon, “people celebrate election victories by buying sweets [candies] and giving them away, so the sweet-sellers across this country have had an extraordinary day.”

It was a crushing defeat for the Congress Party, the party of Jahawarlal Nehru and the Gandhi dynasty. The Congress Party led India to independence from the British in 1947 and has dominated Indian politics since then, until today.  

Tandon credits Modi’s extraordinarily energetic campaign for his success. Tandon describes it as the first US presidential-style campaign in India. By contrast, the outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was almost invisible. Modi’s message was simply “closer to the people.”

India’s stock markets surged on the news. Modi is famously pro-business and pro-growth. Which is something that concerns advocates of India’s old model of social justice. But the BJP says that model has failed to deliver.

The BBC’s Tandon notes that it will be hard for Modi to deliver, as well, since he has raised expectations of rapid development — without corruption.

Modi is also a controversial figure. He was prosecuted in connection with anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, which left an estimated 2,000 people dead.

All charges against him were dropped, but, until recently, he was held at arm’s length by the international community, including the United States, where he was persona non grata. That changed when it looked like he would do well in the election. 

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