The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled off a stunning electoral triumph on Friday that gave it an outright majority in India’s lower house of parliament and ultimately help install Narendra Modi as the country’s new prime minister.
Preliminary results at the end of the month-long election showed the Modi-led BJP had won a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha – the first decisive mandate by a single party in over 30 years.
With projections pushing BJP well over the 272-seat barrier – enough to form a government without coalition partners- supporters’ thronged BJP headquarters in Delhi for carnival-style celebrations. Dancers in traditional costumes chanted pro-Modi slogans as firecrackers exploded at party offices around the country and sweets were handed out in the streets.
Within hours of the official results, the ruling Congress party conceded defeat in the election. “We accept defeat. We are ready to sit in the opposition,” senior Congress leader and spokesman Rajeev Shukla told reporters at the party headquarters in New Delhi as preliminary results showed it would win 49 seats, a historic low for India’s founding party.
“Modi promised the moon and stars to the people. People bought that dream,” he added.
Interestingly, India has not witnessed an unambiguous victory for one political party since 1984, when former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination catapulted her party into the parliament with more than 400 seats – the maximum number bagged by any party in Indian electoral history.
The 63-year-old Modi is set to take oath on May 21 with a cabinet of 12 ministers.
“I want to make the 21st century India’s century. It will take 10 years, not very long,” the four-term chief minister of Gujarat told his supporters after his historic win.
Modi also made clear efforts to sound inclusive amid deep suspicion of him among religious minorities, particularly Muslims. “I want to take all of you with me to take this country forward,” Modi added.
Celebrations on the streets of India were soon followed up by a slew of congratulatory messages pouring in for Modi from across the world. The prime ministers of Sri Lanka, Britain and Pakistan rushed to telephone Modi to congratulate the new leader of the world’s largest democracy.
The atmosphere at the Congress headquarters was subdued as party leaders were coming to terms with the resounding defeat and dismal showing in the polls.
Dismayed by its performance, the outgoing Congress is struggling to maintain a respectable presence in the Indian parliament that enables it to play the role of the opposition in the house.
Party chief Rahul Gandhi, like many party stalwarts, barely managed a razor-thin lead in his home constituency. Similarly, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid received a tough wrap in his constituency.
In other major upsets, the recently founded Aam Admi Party, which rose to popularity on the promise of purging corruption, won only seven seats against the expectations of many of its supporters.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2014.