CONGRESS PARTY CRUSHED IN INDIA ELECTION – BJP TAKES OVER

Washington Times on May 16, 2014, published an AP report that opposition leader Narendra Modi will be India’s next prime minister, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in more than a quarter century and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power…Excerpts below:

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was winning in enough seats in the lower house of Parliament to exceed the 272-seat majority needed to create a government without forming a coalition with smaller parties, the Election Commission said.

As his victory became clear, Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and noted that he is the first Indian prime minister born after independence from Britain in 1947.

“I would like to reassure the nation that while we did not get to fight and die for independence … we have the honor of living for this nation,” he said.

The outcome was a crushing defeat for the Congress party, which is deeply entwined with the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty that has been at the center of Indian politics for most of the country’s post-independence history.

Modi’s slick and well-financed campaign promised a revival of economic growth and took advantage of widespread dissatisfaction with the scandal-plagued Congress party. Although he has focused strongly on the economy, Modi has given some hints of his foreign policy leanings, saying the BJP wants to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with the U.S. and build on the foundations laid by the last BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The overwhelming victory gives Modi, a 63-year-old career politician, a strong mandate to govern India at a time of deep social and economic change. India is in the throes of rapid urbanization and globalization just as the youth population skyrockets…

For the young Indian voters, the priorities are jobs and development, which Modi put at the forefront of his campaign.

Congress, which has been in power for all but 10 years of the country’s history since independence, has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals. Friday’s results showed Congress leading in only 42 seats, its worst showing ever.

There was a record turnout in the election, with 66.38 percent of India’s 814 million eligible voters casting ballots during the six-week contest, which began April 7 and was held in stages across the country. Turnout in the 2009 general election was 58.13 percent.

“In the history of independent India, no political party has defeated the Congress party with such a wide margin,” BJP President Rajnath Singh told a news conference that opened with the blowing of a conch shell, a traditional start to most Hindu rituals.

The Obama administration started mending fences in February 2014, when, for the first time in Modi’s decade-long tenure as the top official in Gujarat state, the U.S. ambassador met with him.

…Modi focused on promises of a revival in economic growth, taking advantage of widespread dissatisfaction with the Congress party.

Modi managed to hammer away at Gandhi — specifically the perception that he is nothing more than a feudal prince from a family that views ruling the country as its birthright.

In sharp contrast to the street parties outside the BJP office, a sober scene played out in front of Congress headquarters, where few showed up despite barricades erected to protect supporters from passing road traffic.

Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma and Katy Daigle contributed to this report.

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