NEW DELHI (AP) — Opposition leader Narendra Modi will be India’s next prime minister, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in more than a quarter century and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power, partial results showed Friday.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was winning in enough seats in the lower house of Parliament to exceed the 272-seat majority needed to create a government without forming a coalition with smaller parties, the Election Commission said.
Full results were expected later in the day but Modi’s win was all but assured.
As his victory became clear, Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and noted that he is the first Indian prime minister born after independence from Britain in 1947.
“I would like to reassure the nation that while we did not get to fight and die for independence … we have the honor of living for this nation,” he said.
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 center of Indian politics for most of the country’s post-independence history.
Modi’s slick and well-financed campaign promised a revival of economic growth and took advantage of widespread dissatisfaction with the scandal-plagued Congress party. Although he has focused strongly on the economy, Modi has given some hints of his foreign policy leanings, saying the BJP wants to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with the U.S. and build on the foundations laid by the last BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The last time any single party won a majority in India was in 1984, when an emotional nation gave Congress a staggering victory of more than 400 seats following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The overwhelming victory gives Modi, a 63-year-old career politician, a strong mandate to govern India at a time of deep social and economic change. India is in the throes of rapid urbanization and globalization just as the youth population skyrockets — with many new voters far less deferential to traditional voting patterns focused on family lineage and caste.
For the young Indian voters, the priorities are jobs and development, which Modi put at the forefront of his campaign.
Congress, which has been in power for all but 10 years of the country’s history since independence, has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals. Friday’s results showed Congress leading in only 42 seats, its worst showing ever.
The leader of the Congress campaign, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi, failed to inspire public confidence. He was seen as ambivalent at best over winning a job held previously by his father, grandmother and great-grandfather.
“I wish the new government all the best,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters Friday afternoon, adding that he held himself responsible for the party’s losses.
Immediately after his appearance, his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the president of the party, took the microphone and said she assumes responsibility.