Narendra Modi wins landslide victory in Indian election




 

Narendra Modi swept back into power on Thursday as his Hindu nationalist party made unexpected gains in a landslide victory.

After a mammoth six-week election in which over 600 million people voted, all the results were tallied on Thursday and within hours the TV networks predicted a win for Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Official data from the Election Commission showed Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party ahead in 300 of the 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.

"Together we grow," Mr Modi said on Twitter. "Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!"

The win by Modi and the BJP has surprised even the most hardened political analysts, with the consensus being that they would be returned to power but with a reduced majority.

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.

The result reinforces Mr Modi's immense popularity and vindicated what at times was a belligerent campaign by several parties, with the focus heavily on the economy, national security, and from the BJP's perspective, an affirmation of its underlying ideology of Hindu nationalism.

Nalin Kohli, a senior BJP official, claimed his party had picked up votes from Muslims, especially Muslim women. "We are the party of power, we are the flavour of the season. It is the aspirations of 1 billion-plus people that have elected us."

The main opposition Congress party was heading for a better performance than its nadir in 2014, but early results suggested it would get at least 52 seats. With its partners it makes up the United Progressive Alliance, which was predicted to hit the 110 mark.

With some of the BJP's critics accusing it of making India a more divisive country, particularly for Muslims and other minorities, many are asking what happens next for India.

Professor Santosh Kumar Rai, of Delhi University, said: "Certainly a second term means an ideological victory, even if it is more a personality cult. With a [BJP] majority, a rightist agenda with all the institutions of the state under its control, the party will be more likely to convert India into a majoritarian state.

"Law, education and culture will be the major areas expecting paradigm shift. Foreign and Finance policies will continue as they are going on now."

The election has been the biggest democratic exercise in history with an electorate of 900million, more than 1 million polling booths, seen phases of polling, seven national parties and dozens more regional parties vying for seats in the New Delhi parliament.

Commentators have said Mr Modi put himself at the centre of a more presidential style of campaign, often making himself and his party interchangeable.

At a packed victory rally at the BJP headquarters in Delhi, Mr Modi said: "This victory will be an inspiration for generations in the country. Crores [tens of millions] of Indians have blessed us, my gratitude to the people.

"This is the highest voter turnout since Independence, even in adverse weather conditions. I congratulate the Election Commission for conducting smooth elections in such a big democracy.

"I have been saying that no party or candidate is fighting the polls but the people of India are. If anybody has won, it is the people of India. This is the biggest event in any democracy in the world."

Referring to his rivals in the Congress Party, he said: "They used a fake tag of Secularism that they thought would wash all sins; today these people have been completely unmasked. Today, India has only two castes - those who are poor and those who want to eradicate poverty.

"This is not Modi's victory. This is victory of honest people's hope, this is a victory of youths who have walked on the path of 21st century with dreams."

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