India polls: Modi tells cheering crowd 'good times are coming'

Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi  is escorted by security personnel at the party's state headquarters in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on May 16, 2014.  Election results, still being coun
Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi  is escorted by security personnel at the party's state headquarters in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on May 16, 2014.  Election results, still being counted on Friday evening, showed the pro-business Hindu nationalist and his party headed for the biggest victory the country has seen in 30 years. -- PHOTO: EPA

VADODARA, India (AFP) - India's Narendra Modi told cheering supporters on Friday that "good times are coming" as he thanked them for their "love" which propelled him and his Hindu nationalist party to an historic election win.

Mr Modi made his first comments on results in his constituency of Vadodara in his home state of Gujarat, where thousands chanted his name.

"Good days are coming... After filing my nomination from Vadodara I was able to spend only 50 minutes here, but you gave me five lakh 70,000 votes (570,000)," he said, referring to his winning margin.

"I bow in front of the people of Vadodara for the love and each of the voters worked as Narendra Modi," he said.

Preliminary results at the end of the marathon six-week election showed Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on track for the first parliamentary majority by a single party since 1984.

Election Commission figures showed the BJP likely to win more than the 272 seats required for a majority on its own in the 543-seat parliament, with victories by its allies taking it easily in excess of 330.

Mr Modi, an abrasive former tea boy tainted by anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, promised to work for all Indians in a speech designed to sound inclusive amid suspicion of him among religious minorities.

“The heat of the election is over and the people have given their verdict, which says that we need to take India forward to fulfil the dreams of India’s 1.2 billion people,” he said.

The results exceeded all forecasts. Firecrackers exploded at BJP offices around the country, sweets were handed out to celebrate and painted elephants paraded in front of party headquarters in New Delhi.

“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,” Mr Modi added in front of the crowd.

The BJP’s triumph redraws India’s political map, elevating the party to a pan-national power, handing Mr Modi a huge mandate for change, and heaping humiliation on the ruling Gandhi political dynasty.

Mr Modi, 63, will face pressure to deliver a quick improvement in the economy, growing at its slowest rate in a decade, and his commitment to the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda will be closely watched by India’s 150 million Muslims.

“It is the dawn of a new era. The lotus has bloomed all over India now,” said BJP president Rajnath Singh, referring to the flower symbol of his party, whose previous all-time high was 182 seats in 1999. 

The Congress party, the national secular force that has run India for all but 13 years since independence, was set to crash to its worst ever result with fewer than 50 seats, a quarter of its tally in 2009.

It has headed two successive left-leaning coalition governments since 2004. The disastrous showing is a severe blow to the Gandhi dynasty which runs Congress, particularly for 43-year-old scion Rahul, whose first performance as chief national campaigner will lead to acrimonious fallout.

Smiling despite the grim news, Mr Gandhi admitted in brief remarks that Congress had “done pretty badly”.

“As vice-president of the party I hold myself responsible,” he said.

Earlier in the day, a group of Congress supporters shouted slogans in support of Rahul’s more popular sister Priyanka outside party headquarters.

Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who said in January that Modi would be “disastrous for the country” after “presiding over the massacre of innocents” during the riots in Gujarat, called to congratulate the BJP leader.

On financial markets, India’s main Bombay Stock Exchange index closed up 0.9 per cent after surging to a record high earlier in the day. Investors and the wider public have rediscovered heady – many say unrealistic – optimism about the world’s second-most populous nation after years of frustration about weak leadership, rising food prices and corruption.

“The economic problems are quite acute. There’s no magic wand,” Mr D.K. Joshi, chief economist of credit rating agency Crisil, told AFP. India is in the grip of stagflation – growth has slumped to 4.9 percent from nine per cent and consumer inflation at a wage-eroding 8.6 per cent.