NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's opposition candidate for premier Narendra Modi predicted on Sunday that voters would soon "root out the corrupt" ruling Congress party nationwide, after state poll victories for his party this month.
Mr Modi, a popular but divisive figure, struck a triumphant note at his first major public rally since the results of five state polls were released, as his party seeks to gain momentum for a general election due by May.
"The people of India have started this (movement) to root out the corrupt Congress dispensation and it will soon happen across the country," Mr Modi said at a rally in the northern city of Dehradun.
"The elections in five Indian states concluded only recently and the results show the direction of the winds of change... the people of this country have made an auspicious start (to a campaign) of voting the Congress party out of power in India," he told tens of thousands of supporters.
Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won by a landslide in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and secured a narrow victory over Congress in Chhattisgarh.
The BJP also won a majority of seats for the state assembly in Delhi, but was upstaged there by new anti-corruption party Aam Aadmi Party (Common People's Party) who took the second biggest chunk of votes.
Congress retained the remote state of Mizoram.
Mr Modi,leading in opinion polls, is seen as more business-friendly than leaders of the national Congress-led government, which is struggling with low economic growth and graft scandals after a decade in power.
But Mr Modi remains hugely divisive among voters, particularly religious minorities, over deadly 2002 anti-Muslim riots that broke out in the western state of Gujarat during his first term there as chief minister.
On Sunday, Mr Modi resumed his jibes at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi family which has dominated politics for most of the period since India's independence in 1947.
Mr Modi questioned Congress's anti-corruption credentials, after Gandhi on Saturday urged all political parties to support the passage of draft anti-graft legislation currently before the national parliament.
He said Congress had not supported similar legislation in the state of Uttarakhand when the BJP was in power there.
"Someone should really ask that senior leader from the Congress party who addressed the media yesterday why his party hadn't allowed the implementation of this key anti-corruption legislation," Mr Modi said.