Prime Minister Narendra Modi routed the opposition in general elections in India winning re-election for a second five year term. The PM was first elected in May 2014 when his party won 282 seats in the 543 parliament. Elections were held in seven phases (starting on April 11 and concluding on May 19). Ballots were counted on May 23. The PM bettered his performance in 2014 winning 303 seats and the alliance partners another fifty seats. It requires only 272 seats to form a government. This writer had predicted a Modi victory during the campaign and right after voting ended on May 19 though not of the magnitude revealed in actual results. The party was expected to lose some seats and make gains in others. It was a Modi wave as this writer found in surveys in several sections of the country. Modi is the first non-Congress prime minister in India to return to power after a full five-year term. Modi’s BJP previously governed India from 1998 to 2004.
Some 600 million voted in this election, the largest election in history. Rahul Gandhi’s Congress scored 44 seats in 2014 and marginally increased its tally to 52, well short of official opposition status.
Modi’s victory is the largest victory of a party since 1984 when Rahul’s father, Rajiv, rode a sympathy wave following the assassination of his mother, Indira, to win the most seats in the history of the country. Congress governed India for fifty of the last 72 years until it was routed in 2014. Analysts say the party is on its last legs unless it does something innovative and creative to revive its fortunes.
Modi dedicated his victory to the people of India and said his win was a "guarantee of a bright future for the common people”. Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat and congratulated Modi.
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram
In a victory speech at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Modi told cheering supporters: “This win is a guarantee of a bright future for the common people of this country. I want to bow my head before the 1.3 billion people of this country. The largest number of votes have been cast in this election. This in itself is because of the awareness of the people of the country, the democracy and the secularism of the country. The world will have to acknowledge this -- to understand the democracy that is India. This election is being fought by the people. If anyone has won, it is India. We dedicate this victory to the people of India."
He added: "This is not Modi’s victory. This is the victory of the hopes and dreams of the struggling people of the country. This is the win for the women who have been waiting for toilets. This is a win for the farmers of this country who work hard to fill the stomachs of the people of the country. I want that the people who want a bright future for this country despite the government that comes to power – for the future of the country, its unity and diversity – this election has set a new narrative. This new narrative means that in this country that there will be only two castes and the country will be built only on those two castes -- those two are the poor and the ones who contribute to the uplift the poor".
The incumbent PM Modi promised to continue the focus on development work his party started five years ago, saying that this is the "21st century and it is a new India" furthering the transformation of India towards developed status.
Modi told the nation they should "accept this election with love." He said “the country runs with everyone together. We will walk with everyone together. We will go ahead for the good of the country and even with this massive mandate, we should walk with love. Our constitution is the most important and we should follow the letter of the constitution and in its shadow”. Modi also the crowd of supporters he is proud of where he stands in front of them. “"We will never stop working for you. We will never bow down. The BJP will always work for the country. We will never give up our ideals, our humility and our culture".
In the biggest upset of the election, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Gandhi family, lost his bid for re-election from the prestigious Amethi constituency that he held since 2004. He was done in by Smriti Irani, a feminist and nationalist and the textile Minister.
Rahul’s mother, Sonia, won the neighboring Rae Bareli seat for the Congress Party. Rahul’s aunt, Maneka Gandhi, and her son, Varun, also won re-election for the BJP. Rahul will remain in parliament as he won another seat from a constituency in South India. The Amethi defeat was a huge embarrassment for the Opposition Leader and his Congress Party. His sister, Priyanka, spent weeks campaigning for him in Amethi; the large amount of resources spent failed to pay off dividends. Gandhi conceded defeat and congratulated Modi-ji and Irani-ji. In commenting on the results, Gandhi told media personnel, “today what matters is that the people of India have decided that Narendra Modi is going to be the Prime Minister".
The party will have to engage in introspection after this successive defeat of Congress -- this had never happened in India’s election.
Meanwhile Modi met his outgoing cabinet colleagues and party leaders Thursday evening. He will meet with elected members of the new parliament on Saturday when the old parliament will be dissolved. His name will be proposed as nominee for PM and then the President will invite him to form a government. He is likely to be sworn in for a second time May 30.