India’s Modi leads BJP to historic poll win

Main opposition party on course to secure clear majority by defeating ruling Congress party in general elections.

Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister-elect, has promised to work to “fulfil the dreams of 1.2 billion people” as he addressed his supporters for the first time after he led his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide election victory.

Thousands of his supporters from across his constituency of Vadodara in western Gujarat state turned out to hear the 63-year-old former tea boy who is poised to become prime minister of the world’s second-most populous nation.

Speaking to supporters, Modi thanked the nation, and immediately addressed concerns his pro-Hindu leanings would sideline minorities.

“The age of divisive politics has ended, from today onwards the politics of uniting people will begin,” Modi said. “We want more strength for the wellbeing of the country … I see a glorious and prosperous India.”

“I want to take all of you with me to take this country forward… it is my responsibility to take all of you with me to run this country,” he added.

By 1900 GMT, the BJP had secure 274 seats, surpassing the 272 required for a majority to form a government, accoridng to the Election Commission. An alliance led by the party was ahead in 340 seats, TV channel NDTV said.

Full results were expected later in the evening or by Saturday morning, but Modi’s win was all but assured.

The desire for change has been so strong that voters put aside concerns about Modi’s Hindu-centric politics.

“India’s economy was in the doldrums. We have hope that he’ll lift up the economy, that he’ll create jobs,” said Shailesh Jha, 29, at the BJP’s Delhi headquarters.

For the young Indian voters, the priorities are jobs and development, which Modi put at the forefront of his campaign.

The stunning results exceeded all forecasts. Firecrackers exploded at BJP offices around the country and sweets were handed out in celebrations that began only a few hours after the first figures filtered out.

Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose party looked set to win less than 50 of the 543 parliamentary seats at stake, congratulated Modi with a telephone call.

Congress concedes defeat

The outcome was 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 leaders of Congress party, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, admitted personal responsibility for the disastrous election results.

“We understand that victory and loss is part of democracy,” party president Sonia told reporters in New Delhi.

Modi’s post-election priorities

“We respect this decision. I take responsibility for this defeat,” she said.

Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from New Delhi, said: “Modi has taken the pains to tell the community-at-large that everyone will prosper under his government.”

“It is inevitable that countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan will be eyeing this very carefully,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reporting from Islamabad, said there is are some fears from the Pakistani side, but the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he is looking forward to a positive relationship.

“Even though there is optimism things will move forward, there are apprehnsions,” Hyder said.

There was a record turnout in the elections, with 66.38 percent of the 814 million eligible voters casting ballots during several stages of the six-week ballot. Turnout in the 2009 elections was 58.13 percent.

“In the history of independent India, no political party has defeated the Congress party with such a wide margin,” BJP President Rajnath Singh told a news conference in New Delhi.

Modi has promised that, if elected, he would take decisive action to unblock stalled investments in power, road and rail projects to revive economic growth.

But with India’s economy suffering its worst slowdown since the 1980s and battling high inflation, it will not be an easy task to meet the hopes of millions of Indians.

At one point on Friday, the benchmark Sensex stock index rose as much as 6.1 percent on news of the BJP’s strong showing before closing 0.9 percent higher than Thursday.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies