—Modi says his party will build a ‘strong and inclusive’ India as BJP wins 348 seats
–Congress chief Rahul Gandhi says accept people’s verdict to elect BJP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi scored a dramatic election victory on Thursday, putting his Hindu nationalist party on course to increase its majority on a mandate of business-friendly policies and a tough stance on national security.
His re-election reinforces a global trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil and Italy, often after adopting harsh positions on protectionism, immigration and defence.
According to Indian Election Commission’s results, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance won 348 out of 542 seats up for grabs, up from the 282 it won in 2014 and more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament. That would give his party the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984.
United Progress Alliance, an alliance of Congress and centre-left parties, managed to win 81.
Pragya Thakur, a BJP candidate who was accused of terrorism for her alleged involvement in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, is on her way to victory in India’s central city of Bhopal by a huge margin.
MODI TO TAKE OATH ON 28TH:
As results confirmed the victory, Modi thanked voters for their “faith placed in [BJP] alliance”. He also lauded BJP workers for their “determination, perseverance and hardwork”.
“Thank you, India! The faith placed in our alliance is humbling and gives us strength to work even harder to fulfil people’s aspirations.
In an apparent attack on BJP’s rival Congress party, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that none of the candidates in the elections were able to “fool the people [of India] by wearing the veil of secularism”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to supporters at BJP headquarters in Delhi, insisted that he “might make mistakes, but won’t ever act maliciously”.
He also vowed to take his country forward and said that it was time to “look ahead and take everybody along including our rivals”.
According to reports in Indian media, the oath-taking ceremony could take place by the middle of next week — 28 May is the likely date.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat in his home constituency of Amethi, saying that “I respect the decision and congratulate Smriti Irani ji.”
He declined to comment on the reasons behind Congress’ disastrous performance in the Indian elections and said that: “People of India have clearly decided that Narendra Modi is going to be their prime minister and as an Indian I respect that.”
Indian Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi joined her brother in congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP workers, saying that the party “accepts people’s verdict”.
WHAT NEXT FOR MODI:
Modi has slashed red tape in the world’s fifth-largest economy, though some overseas firms, including Amazon, Walmart and Mastercard, have complained about policies they say are designed to benefit domestic rivals.
He will face demands to provide jobs for the tens of millions of young people coming on to the market in the next few years and to boost depressed farm incomes.
“The immediate challenges are to address employment, the issue of agricultural income and revive the banking sector,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings in Mumbai.
But making good on his promise of unity will be difficult as the BJP campaign was often divisive, and India’s Muslim minority has expressed fears that policies aimed at pleasing the Hindu majority could imperil their livelihoods.
Besides a harder line on national security, BJP members will look to Modi for progress on a project to building a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindu zealots in the northern holy town of Ayodhya in 1992.
“I want Modi to finish terrorism from Kashmir (and) make Pakistan bite the dust again and again,” said Shekhar Chahal, a BJP worker from the capital, New Delhi.
“I am confident that Modi will also make the temple in Ayodhya.”
Cheering supporters set off firecrackers and showered the mastermind of the campaign, BJP President Amit Shah, with petals as he arrived at party headquarters in New Delhi.
“It’s a stamp of approval by voters on the honest and decisive leadership of Prime Minister Modi,” said Nalin S Kohli, a BJP spokesman.