NEW DELHI – India's Bharatiya Janata Party and its leader Narendra Modi won national elections in a landslide on Friday, preliminary results showed, driving Sonia Gandhi-led Congress party out of power in the most commanding victory India has seen in more than a quarter century, local and foreign media reported.
The Hindu nationalist party captured a commanding lead for at least 272 seats in the Lok Sabha, a lower house of the Parliament, the majority needed to create a government without forming a coalition with smaller parties. With a note of triumph, Modi tweeted: “India has won!” as the results came out on Friday.
Television channels aired footage of an emotional Modi meeting his mother and touching her feet, a traditional gesture when Hindus seek the blessings of an older relative. His mother then marked his forehead with vermilion and fed him sweets. At BJP headquarters in New Delhi, workers were handing out sweets, setting off firecrackers and dancing outside in the streets.
BJP spokeswoman Nirmala Seetharaman said the results were even better than expected. “That certainly is good news, which we will savor with great delight,” she said. “It means that people of India found the (connection) with Narendra Modi.” 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.
In the 2009 general election, turnout was 58.13 percent. Campaigning on promises of a revival in economic growth, the BJP and Modi took advantage of widespread dissatisfaction with the Congress. The BJP's slick and well-financed campaign also promised better governance. The ruling alliance has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals, and 43-year-old Congress leader Rahul Gandhi failed to inspire public confidence.
If the BJP stays ahead of the 272-mark when the final tally is announced it would be the first time a single party has won a majority since the 1984 national election. Exit polls by at least six major Indian TV stations had predicted a BJP-led coalition would win between 249 and 289 seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha.