Opposition wins India vote in early tally

Next Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, gets mother’s blessing as he heads toward landslide election win

Opposition leader Narendra Modi, a candidate for prime minister, won India’s elections by a landslide Friday, according to early results that showed his party easily driving out the long-dominant Congress party in the most commanding election victory India has seen in more than a quarter century.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a commanding lead for 272 seats in the lower house of Parliament — the number needed to create a government without forming a coalition with smaller parties.

The full results are expected later in the day, but it’s unlikely that Modi’s party will see a significant reversal.

With a note of triumph, Modi tweeted, “India has won!” as the results came out Friday.

The Congress party, which has been at the center of Indian politics for most of the country’s history since independence from Britain, conceded defeat several hours into the vote counting.

“We are accepting the people’s verdict in all humility,” party spokesman Shakil Ahmed told The Associated Press. “Trends of the counting are certainly not in our favor. The trends point out that the country has decided to vote against us.”

India’s Election Commission said that early results show that the BJP has won enough seats to form a government.

If the results are finalized as expected, it will be the first time a single party has won an outright majority since the 1984 national elections.

Officials began counting votes Friday after India’s massive weeks-long national elections. Before the tallying began, exit polls were predicting a victory for the country’s pro-business BJP.

Although there was scattered violence throughout the voting process, officials reported a record turnout in this year’s elections, with 66.38 percent of India’s 814 million eligible voters casting ballots during the lengthy contest, which was held in stages across the country. Turnout in the 2009 elections was 58.13 percent.

Good governance was just one issue that was driving the high turnout. Another was rising consumer prices. India has had record growth in the last 20 years, and income distribution programs have lifted millions out of poverty into a new middle class.

It’s these voters who are concerned now that India’s striking 5 percent annual GDP growth is slowing. Voters want the next leader to rein in inflation. Most Indians survive on $2 a day.

The BJP and Modi campaigned on a platform of economic renewal. The chief minister of the booming state of Gujarat, Modi pointed to its success as he addressed 457 rallies in a slick campaign. The BJP also promised better governance. 

Modi’s was a message many seemed eager to hear. There has been widespread dissatisfaction with the ruling Congress party, which has been in power for a decade. 

The Congress-led ruling alliance has been plagued by corruption scandals, and the Congress party’s 43-year-old leader, Rahul Gandhi, appeared to have failed to inspire public confidence.

Exit polls by at least six major Indian TV stations predicted a BJP-led coalition would win 249 to 289 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament.  

At the BJP’s headquarters in New Delhi, workers were already anticipating victory and preparing sweets to be distributed among the party’s supporters and allies.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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