Landslide win for India’s opposition party as voters hope for stronger economy and more jobs

Published: May 16, 2014

Indians take photographs of a portrait of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi, made with colored powder and surrounded by rose petals, at the party office in Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Friday, May 16, 2014. AP Photo/Saurabh Das

MUNEEZA NAQVI and ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW DELHI — India’s opposition leader, Narendra Modi, will become the next prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in three decades and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power.

Modi, a career politician whose campaign promised a revival of economic growth, will have a strong mandate to govern at a time of profound changes in Indian society. He also has said he wants to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with the United States. But critics worry the ascendance of his Hindu nationalist party could worsen sectarian tensions with India’s minority 138 million Muslims.

The results were 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. The party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals and a poor economy.

As his overwhelming win became clear Friday, Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and tried to strike a conciliatory note.

“I have always said that to govern the nation it is our responsibility to take everyone with us,” Modi said after a lengthy and punishing race. “I want your blessings so that we can run a government that carries everyone with it.”

Nevertheless, 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.

Modi was accused of doing little to stop the rampage, though he denies any wrongdoing and has never been charged with a crime. He was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 for alleged complicity in the riots, although as prime minister he would be virtually assured a visa.

On Friday, President Barack Obama called Modi to congratulate him on his victory and invited him “to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship,” the White House said in a statement. The U.S. administration had watched Modi’s rise carefully, and in February, for the first time in Modi’s decade-long tenure as the top official in Gujarat state, the American ambassador met with him.

In India, the question now is whether Modi 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 Modi’s momentum — and laser focus on the ailing economy — carried him to victory.

By Friday night, 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. Of the 483 seats declared the BJP had won 271 and was leading in another 11.

The Congress party had won 42 seats and was leading in another two. Full results were expected Saturday, but Modi’s win was all but assured.

There was a record turnout in the election, with 66.38 per cent of India’s 814 million eligible voters casting ballots during the six-week contest, which began April 7 and was held in stages across the country. Turnout in the 2009 general election was 58.13 per cent.

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.

But 30 years later, India is now in the throes of rapid urbanization and globalization just as the youth population is skyrocketing. Many new voters are 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 Modi put at the forefront of his campaign.

Sreeram Chaulia, a political analyst and dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, said the BJP’s image as a purely capitalist, pro-business party resonated across India. That image contrasts with Congress, which is considered more of a welfare party, mixing capitalist reforms with handouts for the poor.

“A lot of ordinary people believed in (Modi’s) message and wanted to give him the strong mandate he was seeking, to see if he could really change things in India,” Chaulia said. “There has been growth in the middle class, so of course why have they punished the incumbents? Because they want more, obviously, something more than subsistence. They want upward mobility.”

The BJP has promised to change tough labour laws that make foreign manufacturers reluctant to set up factories in India. Manufacturing makes up only 15 per cent of India’s economy, compared to 31 per cent in China. Attracting manufacturing investment is key to creating jobs for the 13 million young Indians entering the workforce each year, and foreign investors have been pouring billions of dollars into Indian stocks and bonds in anticipation of a Modi victory.

Although he focused strongly on the economy, Modi has given some hints of his foreign policy leanings, saying the BJP wants to build on the foundations laid by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the last BJP prime minister. Vajpayee, who governed from 1998 to 2004, rode a bus across the border to Pakistan in what was seen as a bold step in trying to mend ties with India’s longtime enemy.

Modi said during the campaign that India did not want a war with regional giant China but that his government would be prepared to deal with what he called Beijing’s possible expansionist designs.

The election came at a low ebb for the Congress party, which has been in power for all but 10 years of the country’s history since independence in 1947. Friday’s partial results showed Congress winning only about 45 seats, its worst showing ever.

The leader of the Congress campaign, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi, failed to inspire public confidence. He was seen as ambivalent at best over winning a job held previously by his father, grandmother and great-grandfather.

“I wish the new government all the best,” Gandhi told reporters Friday afternoon, adding that he held himself responsible for the party’s losses.

Immediately after his appearance, his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the president of the party, took the microphone and said she assumes responsibility.

The two took no questions after their brief remarks, and Rahul trailed his mother off the stage.

Rahul Gandhi, who first won a seat in Parliament in 2004, has been viewed as prime-minister-in-waiting for his entire political career, though he never appeared comfortable in the role. When he finally gave the first television interview earlier this year, it made for dull, uninspiring viewing full of vague promises.

In sharp contrast to the street parties outside the BJP office, a sober scene played out in front of the Congress headquarters, where few showed up despite barricades erected to protect supporters from passing road traffic.

Modi, 63, promised a fresh start in India on Friday, noting that he is the first Indian prime minister born after independence from Britain in 1947.

“I would like to reassure the nation that while we did not get to fight and die for independence, we have the honour of living for this nation,” Modi said. “Now is not the time to die for the nation but to live for it.”

Related stories

——

Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma and Katy Daigle contributed to this report.

15:29ET 16-05-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

Screen shot of Shah Rukh Khan's first video tweet. Submitted.

Shah Rukh Khan sends out India’s first tweet using Twitter’s new mobile video camera

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was the first-ever Indian to use Twitter’s freshly launched mobile video camera. Twitter announced the new feature on…
Continue Reading »

Amanda Todd is shown in an undated handout photo. The man accused in the cyberbullying case of British Columbia teen Amanda Todd has denied the allegations against him in a letter released by his lawyer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Facebook, HO

‘First off, I’m innocent’: Dutch man accused in Amanda Todd extortion case writes open letter saying he’s the wrong guy

SUSAN LAZARUK VANCOUVER DESI The Dutch man suspected of online extortion in the Amanda Todd case has released a letter from jail, to tell the…
Continue Reading »

Indian spectators watch as a float carrying a sign that reads "Congratulations! It's a Baby Girl" passes by during the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. The float represented India's Ministry of Women and Child Development.  An estimated 26 million babies are born anually in India, a country considered to be one of the worst places to be born a girl because of a societal 'gender gap' that favours boys and preferences for male children.  ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

India’s Supreme Court bans online advertisements for pre-birth sex tests

VANCOUVER DESI India’s Supreme Court has ordered Internet giants Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to block all advertisements for pre-birth tests that determine a child’s gender,…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Amanda Todd is shown in an undated handout photo. The man accused in the cyberbullying case of British Columbia teen Amanda Todd has denied the allegations against him in a letter released by his lawyer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Facebook, HO

‘First off, I’m innocent’: Dutch man accused in Amanda Todd extortion case writes open letter saying he’s the wrong guy

SUSAN LAZARUK VANCOUVER DESI The Dutch man suspected of online extortion in the Amanda Todd case has released a letter from jail, to tell the…
Continue Reading »

sethi

American Punjabi rapper feels at home in Vancouver

Collaborative hip hop and artistic group Char Bagh set to play the PuSh Festival on Saturday   LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI California-based MC and artist…
Continue Reading »

Al Paskall, husband of slain hockey mom Julie Paskall, was in Surrey Provincial court today during day one of her accused killer's preliminary hearing. Gord Goble/Surrey Now.

‘I wasn’t there when I should’ve been,’ husband of slain Surrey hockey mom says in court

AMY REID SURREY NOW “It should have been me.” More than a year after his high school sweetheart Julie Paskall lost her life following an…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Vancouver-BC

Raise your hand, send us a selfie and make a statement against racism (with video)

VANCOUVER DESI Vancouver Desi’s digital anti-racism campaign, Raise Your Hands Against Racism, officially kicked off Thursday, with people across the Lower Mainland sending in selfies…
Continue Reading »

DEVGAN

Bollywood film that was to shoot in Alberta ‘indefinitely postponed’

ERIC VOLMERS CALGARY HERALD Don’t brush up your Bollywood dance moves yet, Alberta. Shivay, a Hindi film that was set to start filming in the Rocky Mountains…
Continue Reading »

File photo: The new Surrey City Hall in Surrey, B.C., December 29, 2014. Arlen Redekop/PNG

Surrey named one of top seven most intelligent communities in the world

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — The City of Surrey has been named one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities of 2015 by New York-based think…
Continue Reading »

FILE PHOTO: A leopard walks with a tranquiliser dart in the residential area of Jyotikuchi in Guwahati, the capital city of the northeastern state of Assam on March 15, 2009. Three people were mauled by the leopard after the cat strayed into the city before it was tranquilised by forestry department officials. BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images

Leopard in India beaten to death by villagers after vicious attack

IANS Kolkata  – A young male leopard was beaten to death by a mob of angry villagers on Monday after it strayed into a West…
Continue Reading »

prv0122Nfashion01

Passion for fashion turned into day job for Surrey clothing designer

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Surrey’s Davi Bains-Gill never thought her love for fashion and design could be her livelihood. She pursued a career in social…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Bollywood movie

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan rules out Hollywood

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan doesn’t foresee a transition to Hollywood, according to SkyNews. Although Bachchan recently appeared alongside Hollywood’s Leonardo DiCaprio in The…
Continue Reading »

Screen shot of Shah Rukh Khan's first video tweet. Submitted.

Shah Rukh Khan sends out India’s first tweet using Twitter’s new mobile video camera

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was the first-ever Indian to use Twitter’s freshly launched mobile video camera. Twitter announced the new feature on…
Continue Reading »

Sunny Leone posts a photo of her family vacation to her Instagram account. Submitted photo/Instagram.

Sunny Leone signed on to mentor participants of new social media reality show

HINDUSTAN TIMES Listed as India’s most-searched celebrity last year, the Internet has certainly played a crucial role in Indo Canadian porn star turned Bollywood actress…
Continue Reading »