Hindu Nationalist Leader “Modi”-Led Bloc Wins Biggest India Mandate in Three Decades

Modi Declares New Era in India After Biggest Win in 30 YearsNarendra Modi declared a new era in India after his opposition bloc secured the biggest election win in 30 years, with voters tired of sluggish economic growth and corruption handing the Gandhi dynasty a historic defeat.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies won or were leading in about 333 of 543 seats up for grabs, more than the 272 needed for a majority, Election Commission data showed late yesterday. Rahul Gandhi, who led the Congress campaign, conceded defeat with his bloc leading in 59 seats, the worst ever performance for the party that has governed India for most of the time since independence in 1947. Smaller regional parties were ahead in 151 seats.

“The era of divisive politics is over and it is time for unification,” Modi, 63, told a rally yesterday in Gujarat, the western state he’s run since 2001. “I see the dawn of a new era for our country.”

The results boosted stocks and lifted the rupee as investors bet a stable government would make changes needed to bolster growth in the world’s largest democracy. While Modi’s opponents accused him of inflaming tensions between Hindus and a Muslim minority that stem from the country’s founding in 1947, on the campaign trail he offered a message of economic development.

‘Pretty Badly’

“It marks the beginning of a new era in Indian politics,” said B.G. Verghese, a visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi and a former aide to late prime minister Indira Gandhi. “This clean break offers a fresh look at basic policies — economic, security, social — and that has to be a good thing.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a farewell address today, wished Modi success and called on the nation to respect the results.

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“India is a far stronger country in every respect than it was a decade ago,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi, the son, grandson and great grandson of Indian prime ministers, congratulated the new government in brief comments yesterday at the Congress party headquarters in New Delhi, saying the BJP and its allies “have been given a mandate by the people of our country.”

“Congress party has done pretty badly,” Gandhi, 43, said as he stood alongside his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the party’s president. “There is a lot for us to think about. And as vice president of the party, I hold myself responsible for what’s happened.”

Victory Parade

Modi arrived at Delhi’s airport today, where he addressed hundreds of cheering supporters waving orange and green flags printed with the BJP’s lotus symbol. He then headed on a victory parade through the capital to the BJP’s office, near the boulevard connecting the presidential palace with the memorial arch called India Gate.

The BJP itself was set to win 282 seats, the biggest victory for a single party since Congress won 404 seats in 1984 in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. India recorded the highest ever turnout in nine rounds of voting at almost one million polling stations stretching from the Himalayas to tropical islands in the Bay of Bengal.

Caste Divide

“This is the first time that BJP has been able to expand it social and geographical boundaries,” Rajnath Singh, the party’s president, told reporters in New Delhi yesterday. “The BJP has succeeded in crossing the caste, religion and class divide.”

The best-ever showing for the BJP stems the rise of regional parties over the past three decades as Indians increasingly picked members of their own caste, a millennia-old social hierarchy in India rooted in Hinduism. The trend was seen most dramatically in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, where the BJP was set to win 71 of 80 seats, up from 10 in 2009.

The Bahujan Samaj Party, which derives its support from the lowest rungs of the caste system, was set to lose all 21 seats it held in Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party, backed largely by Muslims and a cow-herding caste, was poised to win five seats in the state, down from 23 in the 2009 election.

‘Back in Business’

“The mandate signals the maturing of India’s democracy,” said D.G.A. Khan, who teaches political science at the Banaras Hindu University in Uttar Pradesh. “Voters have backed the message of development instead of the caste preferences and parties who have exploited it for years.”

India’s rupee surged past 59 per dollar for the first time since July. The S&P BSE Sensex (SENSEX) increased 0.9 percent to a record 24,121.74 at the close in Mumbai, after swinging between a gain of 6.15 percent and a loss of 0.1 percent.

“India is back in business,” Andrew Holland, chief executive officer at Mumbai-based Ambit Investment Advisors Pvt., said in an e-mail. “Investors will now watch for the new government’s comments on policy issues such as foreign direct investment and the fiscal deficit to take further decisions, but I don’t see a massive downside.”

Source: Business Week