(Delhi) Thousands of people have welcomed India’s next prime minister in the capital after he led his party to a resounding election victory. Narendra Modi flashed a victory sign to his supporters and told them that the win “has created a new confidence among people”.
Results announced on Friday from the polls showed that Mr Modi and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won the most decisive election victory India has seen in three decades, sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power.
Mr Modi was greeted by roaring crowds outside the BJP’s offices in New Delhi, where he met with the top leadership of the party to discuss the formation of a new government.
Mr Modi pulled off a mandate of staggering proportions, leaving him unfettered to pursue the agenda of economic revival and development that propelled him to victory.
What remains to be seen is how quickly Mr Modi, who has ruled the western state of Gujarat since 2001, can match the enormous expectations he has created in an electorate that is hungry for change.
“One might envy Narendra Modi his awesome electoral victory yesterday. But the challenges he faces as India’s 17th prime minister are scarcely enviable,” said Mohan Guruswamy, an economist long associated with the BJP.
For most of the past two years, Mr Modi, 63, has worked relentlessly to market himself as the one leader capable of waking this nation of 1.2 billion from its economic slumber, while trying to shake off allegations that he looked the other way amid communal riots in his home state in 2002 that killed 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
As thousands of people cheered and danced in the streets to welcome him to the capital, it was clear that Mr Modi had managed to win the confidence of a large number of Indians.
Mr Modi and the BJP wiped out a Congress party that had dominated Indian politics for all but a decade since the country gained freedom from British rule in 1947.
The victory celebration came a day after the party crossed the 272-seat majority needed to create a government without forming a coalition with smaller parties.
By Saturday morning, of the 536 seats declared, the BJP had won 280 and led in two more. Congress won 43 seats and led in one other in the 543-strong lower house of Parliament.
The last time any single party won a majority in India was in 1984, when the Congress party swept more than 400 seats following the assassination of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi.
But 30 years later, India is now in the midst of rapid socio-economic change. About 13 million young people are entering the job market each year, but not enough jobs are being created in an economy that has slowed down to below 5% in the last two years.
For voters, the priorities in this election were no longer bound by old traditional religious and caste allegiances. Instead, jobs and development were their main priority, and after having promised them that, Mr Modi’s real challenge lies ahead.
The BJP has promised to change tough labour laws that make foreign manufacturers reluctant to set up factories in India.
Manufacturing makes up only 15% of India’s economy, compared to 31% in China. Attracting manufacturing investment is key to creating jobs, and foreign investors have been pouring billions of dollars into Indian stocks and bonds in anticipation of a Modi victory.
Mr Modi himself looked forward, confidently promising to start work on his agenda quickly and thanking voters for giving him a clear mandate.
A new government will take office sometime after the party’s newly elected politicians formally appoint Mr Modi as prime minister.
Outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh met with president Pranab Mukherjee and gave him his resignation.
The BJP offices in the heart of the capital were covered with garlands made of marigold flowers and multi-coloured balloons.
Supporters blew conch shells, which traditionally mark the start of most Hindu rituals. As he walked towards the office, Mr Modi was showered with rose petals.