After Weeks Of Voting, India's Opposition Party Gets A Sweeping Win

After several weeks, India's parliamentary elections have finally finished. Voters swept opposition leader Narendra Modi into power as prime minister, voting for the Hindu nationalist party he leads.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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And I'm Melissa Block. India has been Modi-fied. As we're about to hear, that's the chant from young Indians excited about their newly elected prime minister. His name is Narendra Modi. Voters gave his BJP Party a landslide victory that left the ruling Congress Party of Sonia Gandhi with just a few dozen seats in Parliament. Today's result follows a bruising five-week-long election. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi that the day belonged to Modi.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: India is a young country.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

MCCARTHY: And nowhere was that plainer than in this election. One hundred million more citizens were added to the voter rolls from five years ago and the youth came out for Narendra Modi. They fueled a remarkable electoral victory, which is about to deliver the main opposition BJP to the seat of power. Young men danced, sang, nearly jumped out of their skins with excitement at electing the son of a tea seller, a trade Modi himself once plied. To now be standing at the pinnacle of power represents the sort of aspirational India that supporters celebrated at the BJP headquarters today.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We have Modi-fied the nation.

MCCARTHY: Modi-fied the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yeah, that means Modi.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It's the Modi-fied. It's the Modi-fied.

MCCARTHY: We have Modi-fied the nation, this group of young men, all certified public accountants, declared. The BJP made history with the scale of its win. It needs no coalition partners, a rare circumstance in India's normally fractured political scene. Narendra Modi told crowds in the city of Ahmedabad in his state of Gujarat tonight that no other non-dynastic party had achieved such huge margins. He was referring to the Congress Party that has been guided by the Gandhi family since independence in 1947, a party Modi accused of keeping India in arrested development.

NARENDRA MODI: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: India needs just 10 years to make the 21st century India's century, he said. We must connect growth to the common man, Modi said, and make it all-inclusive. But have the results quieted the questions about Modi as a polarizing figure? Has he recovered from the Hindu-Muslim riots that have dogged him since 2002 and damaged his image at home and abroad? Milan Vaishnav, an associate at the South Asia Program with the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, says India has, quote, "moved on from those riots" but says there is still plenty of work to do.

MILAN VAISHNAV: How is he going to demonstrate to all Indians - whether they're minorities, whether Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians - that he really is the prime minister of all India and not just the Hindu majority? And I think that's something that now that he's in the position that he's in has to demonstrate.

MCCARTHY: Sonia Gandhi took responsibility for the worst defeat that Congress Party has suffered in its history.

SONIA GANDHI: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: The people's mandate is clearly against us, against our party, she said. We humbly respect the decision of the voters. But Gandhi went on to say we also hope that the new government will not compromise on the unity of the Indian society. Political observer Shiv Viswanathan says Modi and the BJP pulverized the Congress Party, because, as he put it...

SHIV VISWANATHAN: It was too mediocre, it was too silly, and it thought it owned the nation. So, it had no sense of its own history, and therefore it had to go.

MCCARTHY: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will tender his resignation tomorrow along with his cabinet, paving the way for Narendra Modi to assume power in the world's largest democracy. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, New Delhi.

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