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

Auckland NRI Sikh murder

Surrey man charged with manslaughter in June stabbing death

VANCOUVER DESI A 20-year-old Surrey man has been charged with manslaughter in the death of a man in Surrey in June. Mandepaak “Deepak” Chahal, 22,…
Continue Reading »

sex crime exposed

North Vancouver police looking for man who exposed himself to teen girls

BRENT RICHTER NORTH SHORE NEWS North Vancouver RCMP are warning the public after receiving two reports of a man exposing himself to teenaged girls. Police…
Continue Reading »

Jian Ghomeshi

‘Big Ears Teddy’ Twitter account posted Jian Ghomeshi abuse allegations six months ago

ISHMAEL N. DARO CANADA.COM In less than a week, Jian Ghomeshi has gone from one of the most well-known and beloved CBC personalities to an…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Auckland NRI Sikh murder

Surrey man charged with manslaughter in June stabbing death

VANCOUVER DESI A 20-year-old Surrey man has been charged with manslaughter in the death of a man in Surrey in June. Mandepaak “Deepak” Chahal, 22,…
Continue Reading »

sex crime exposed

North Vancouver police looking for man who exposed himself to teen girls

BRENT RICHTER NORTH SHORE NEWS North Vancouver RCMP are warning the public after receiving two reports of a man exposing himself to teenaged girls. Police…
Continue Reading »

TransCanada files application to NEB for Energy East crude pipeline

By Lauren Krugel THE CANADIAN PRESS CALGARY — After dozens of open houses and thousands of conversations across six provinces, TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) has filed…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Weird news

Video: Vicar wants to ban outrageous farting, rapping baby baptism ad

CEN AGENCY An advert showing a farting baby rapping about being baptized has come under fire from the Church. The 29 second clip which was…
Continue Reading »

Smart 21 communities

Surrey named among World’s Smart21 Communities of 2015

VANCOUVER DESI SURREY, B.C. – The Intelligent Community Forum has named the City of Surrey as one of the world’s Smart21 Communities of 2015. As one…
Continue Reading »

elephant crushes woman to death

Elephant crushes woman to death at India’s nature reserve

CEN AGENCY A school teacher was crushed to death by an elephant when it knocked her over with its trunk and then stood on her….
Continue Reading »

Crime-Vancouver-BC

Surrey Six murders: Allegations of weekend sex party, ‘sordid’ affair between investigator and potential witness rock case

KEITH FRASER VANCOUVER DESI The Surrey Six case heard details Tuesday of allegations of sexual improprieties involving a second senior RCMP officer. When charges were…
Continue Reading »

CBC-sexual behaviour-lawsuit

Jian Ghomeshi’s CBC lawsuit is hopeless — even if he’s telling the truth

HOWARD LEVITT FINANCIAL POST Jian Ghomeshi’s $50-million lawsuit against the CBC has everything to do with strategy and PR — but nothing to do with…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Ismaili musicians - Aga Khan foundation

Salim-Sulaiman show underlines Vancouver’s rising Bollywood cachet

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI With big-time Bollywood composers Salim-Sulaiman set to kick off their North American tour at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday, it…
Continue Reading »

Shah Rukh Khan

Burdwan blast: Shah Rukh Khan prays for better times for Bengal

IANS Kolkata – Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, West Bengal’s brand ambassador, Wednesday expressed his unwillingness to talk about the terror blast in Burdwan, but…
Continue Reading »

Ayesha Takia Azmi vegan

Chic Bollywood actress Ayesha Takia poses with a chick for PETA (w/gallery)

IANS New Delhi – Ahead of World Vegan Day on Nov 1, actress Ayesha Takia has posed with a fluffy chick for a new ad…
Continue Reading »