India’s Narendra Modi hails victory before chanting crowd

‘We have the capacity to fulfil the common man’s aspirations’, says PM-elect

Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is greeted by huge garland. Photograph : Divykant Solanki/EPA

Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is greeted by huge garland. Photograph : Divykant Solanki/EPA

Fri, May 16, 2014, 20:41

India’s opposition leader, Narendra Modi, swept into power as prime minister-elect today, as voters delivered a crushing verdict on the corruption scandals and flagging economic growth that have plagued their country in recent years.

In a victory speech in Vadodara, the city in Gujarat state where he won his own parliamentary seat in a landslide, Mr Modi addressed a wild, chanting crowd shortly after the Indian National Congress, which has controlled India’s government for nearly all of its postcolonial history, conceded defeat.

“Brothers and sisters, you have faith in me, and I have faith in you,” Mr Modi said, in remarks that were interrupted several times by the crowd chanting his name. “We have the capacity to fulfil the common man’s aspirations.”

The contours of the victory by Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the defeat of the Congress party became clear even before election officials finished counting the 550 million votes cast in the five-week general elections.

After two hours of counting, the BJP was assured of winning more than 272 seats, enough to form a government without brokering a coalition deal with any of India’s fractious regional leaders.

That would give Mr Modi the strongest mandate of any Indian leader since Rajiv Gandhi took office in 1984, riding the wave of sympathy that followed the assassination of his mother, Indira Gandhi.

The celebrations of Mr Modi’s triumph began while the counting was still underway. Drummers, stilt-walkers and women in colourful saris converged at BJP headquarters in Delhi, where party workers had laid out 100,000 laddoos, the ball-shaped sweets that are ubiquitous at Indian celebrations.

Surinder Singh Tiwana, a 40-year-old lawyer, was among the revellers. “I can equate my jubilation today, probably, to my mother’s on the day I was born,” Tiwana said. “This is a huge change for our country, a change of guard. A billion-plus people have announced their mandate in no uncertain terms. They have voted for a progressive, stable government.”

Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent to the political dynasty that has formed the Congress party’s backbone, appeared to have only narrowly won re-election today in his home constituency, a stronghold that he carried by more than 300,000 votes in 2009.

In a humiliation for Mr Gandhi (43) a group of workers gathered around party headquarters in the capital city, chanting “Bring Priyanka, Save Congress,” a reference to his younger sister, who is seen as a more charismatic politician.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a Congress spokesman, conceded that his party had been defeated. “If the leads are correct, the results are conclusive,” he said in a telephone interview.

Another party spokesman, Randeep Singh Surjewala, also confirmed the loss. “We humbly accept the verdict of the people of India, ” he said. “We shall continue to play with rigor the role of a constructive and meaningful opposition - the role that the people of India have assigned to us.”