Narendra Modi leads BJP to spectacular victory, Congress decimated, but limits to BJP power

Narendra Modi BJP – 283 [NDA – 337], Congress – 43 [UPA – 58], AAP – 4, Others -144

New Delhi (IANS): In a historic election that would could have far-reaching implications for India’s polity and its policies, Narendra Modi, a rank outsider to Delhi’s politics, was poised to become the 14th prime minister of this diverse nation of 1.2 billion people, storming into its citadels of power by decimating the Congress party that has ruled the country for much of the period since its independence.

“I have been elected as the prime worker of the people,” said Modi, seeking to project his humility in a victory speech at Vadodara, in Gujarat, to almost rockstar-like adulation from screaming supporters, both men and women and thousands of young people. Modi won with a parliamentary record margin of over 570,000 votes from Vadodara, one of the two constituencies from which he contested, the other being Varanasi, from where also he won.

“All the people of this country are ours. It is our responsibility to take everyone along. Our mission will be: With all, development for all,” said he, seeking to allay fears among minorities about his rise.
Modi pointed out to resounding cheers from the crowd how this was the first time that a non-Congress party had got a majority on its own in a national election in India that was followed keenly around the world.

[The VOICE adds: The Center For Strategic & International Studies’ Richard M. Rossow noted in an analysis: “The BJP will still hold a very small proportion of seats in the upper house of Parliament, so legislative reforms will not be possible without the participation of Congress or a wide range of regional parties. The BJP is also in charge of a small minority of states—only 5 of India’s 29 states—so its actual reach cannot quite be termed “national.””]

US President Barack Obama Friday called up Indian prime minister-designate Narendra Modi and congratulated him on his “emphatic election victory”, officials said.

Obama said that the largest democracy in the world has given a “decisive mandate” and that he wished that under Modi’s leadership, India will contribute at the global stage.

Both leaders discussed the India-US Strategic Partnership and the prevailing global economic situation.

This was the first high-level contact between Modi and the US leadership ever since 2005 when the Gujarat chief minister had been denied a US visa due to his alleged complicity in the 2002 riots in the state.

Obama joined a number of world leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who have congratulated the Bharatiya Janata Party leader on the overwhelming win in the general elections.

The stock market shot up on news of the imminent BJP victory even as India Inc looked to a “industry-friendly” Modi to lift a flagging economy and restore investor confidence in the world’s third largest economy.

The Congress, India’s oldest party which had ruled the country for a decade since 2004, faced its worst humiliation, raising question marks about the future of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has given India most of its prime ministers. Congress’ de facto prime ministerial candidate Rahul Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great grandfather were all prime ministers, was humbled by Modi in a way that the Congress plummeted to its lowest ever two-digit tally in a national election.

It had won 206 seats in the last election in 2009. On the other hand, the BJP, which debuted as a party with just two seats in 1984 when the Congress won a record 414 seats, was poised to take its tally to nearly 280 seats, a comfortable majority on its own, without any of its allies.

“It is the start of a new era in Indian politics,” exclaimed Rajnath Singh, the BJP president whose audacious move to name Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the party late last year upset the veterans but was wholeheartedly endorsed by the party rank and file.

Even political pundits gasped at the sheer scale of the BJP’s sweep that election officials said was poised to give it a comfortable majority in the 545-member Lok Sabha even without the aid of its old and new allies.

The Congress did not win a single seat in seven states and it was unlikely to win more than 10 seats in any state.

Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Modi, who is still the Gujarat chief minister. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who won easily from Rae Bareli along with her son Rahul Gandhi (Amethi), took responsibility for the defeat but was criticised for not being gracious enough to congratulate Modi.

“The people’s verdict is against us,” Gandhi said. Congress strategist and former minister Jairam Ramesh summed up the mood in the country’s grand old party by saying: “Our performance is worse than the worst case scenario.”

The elections proved a graveyard for Congress stalwarts. Minister after minister, leader after leader, lost at the hustings, with only a notable few winning through to the 16th Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament’s House of People. At least 23 ministers of Manmohan Singh’s government lost. Manmohan Singh, who had announced his retirement earlier this year, did not contest.

Manmohan Singh will resign as prime minister Saturday morning after addressing the nation at 1000 hours. Modi, who comes to the capital Saturday morning from his home state Gujarat, is to take his oath of office May 21.

After the win became clear in the morning itself, within hours of the start of counting over 550 million votes cast in 1.7 million electronic voting machines spread across 543 constituencies, a visibly jubilant Modi promptly called on his ageing mother, the one person he respects the most, in Gandhinagar and hugged her as television cameras relayed the scene to the nation.

All BJP stalwarts won easily including L.K. Advani (Gandhinagar), Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), Murli Manohar Joshi (Kanpur), Nitin Gadkari (Nagpur) and Sushma Swaraj (Vidisha).

The only BJP leader who lost was Arun Jaitley, leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha who was trounced by former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress in Amritsar. Jaitley was tipped to be the finance minister in a new Modi government.

Tens of thousands of BJP supporters celebrated the party’s victory all over the country. In New Delhi, thousands gathered at the BJP headquarters dancing, bursting firecrakcers and distributing sweets.
Party colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The results show the people of India love Modi.”

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raj said Modi had “electrified the nation.” Amit Shah, Modi’s closest aide, declared that India was poised to see major changes in politics.

The BJP was poised to win all but seven seats in Uttar Pradesh which elects the maximum of 80 members to the Lok Sabha. The BJP-led combine was also poised to bag 31 of the 40 seats in neighbouring Bihar.

Interestingly, three of the four regional parties which too did well in their strongholds were not allied with Modi even if their leaders have had good equations with him.

Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK led by Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa will be the third largest party in the Lok Sabha. It has won or is wnning in 37 of the state’s 39 seats – a showing that punctured long-time rival DMK.

In West Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress decimated the Left. It has won or is winning 34 of the 42 seats. The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha was set to win 20 of the 21 seats.

The BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, was on the victory lap in 19 of the 48 constituencies. The Shiv Sena-BJP combine would win 40 seats in the state.

“The most fundamental factor behind such a decisive mandate is the all India anti-Congress sentiment,” political commentator Dipankar Gupta told IANS.

Many Congress veterans bit the dust. They included Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot and Sports Minister Jitendra Singh.

Outgoing finance minister P. Chidamabaram’s son Karti Chidambaram lost from his father’s constituency after the latter opted out of the contest. And so did Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar (Sasaram).

The Left too suffered a major blow. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, who claimed he would easily defeat Modi in Varanasi, lost by more than 200,000 votes. His new party won only four of 440 seats they contested.