After A Mammoth Election In India, Prime Minister Modi Wins Another 5-Year Term
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
To India now where the counting is nearly done in the country's mammoth six-week-long election. Results all but guarantee that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get another five-year term. His Hindu nationalist party appears to have won an absolute majority in Parliament, meaning it will have enough power to govern alone without having to build a coalition. Modi may be sworn in as early as this weekend. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).
(SOUNDBITE OF HORN)
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's supporters showered him with rose petals as he spoke after nightfall at his Bharatiya Janata Party's headquarters in India's capital.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: (Through interpreter) This is a victory for the youth who have dreams, for the mother who wished for a toilet, for every sick person who couldn't afford treatment, for farmers who toil for the nation, for poor people moving into their first home, for every law-abiding, taxpaying citizen.
FRAYER: Modi listed his signature policies for the poor - sanitation, health insurance, concrete homes for people who previously lived in shanties. He also called for unity after a divisive six-week campaign, during which his party played on prejudice against minorities and fear of terrorism. Earlier, Modi's main opponent Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a family dynasty that's produced three previous prime ministers, conceded defeat. Reporters asked him what went wrong for his Indian National Congress Party.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
RAHUL GANDHI: Frankly, today, it doesn't matter what I think went wrong. What matters is that the people of India have decided that Narendra Modi is going to be prime minister. And as an Indian person, I fully respect that.
FRAYER: Gandhi lost his seat in his family's home town. The Congress Party had dominated Indian politics since independence from Britain until Modi's election five years ago. His victory today is part of a global trend of right-wing populists, from the U.S. to Brazil to Italy, elected on protectionist anti-immigrant platforms.
NEELAM DEO: This is definitely the era of strong men.
FRAYER: Neelam Deo is a retired Indian ambassador and director of Gateway House, a think tank in Mumbai.
DEO: What will it mean for foreign policy? I think he will be taken even more seriously in conjunction with the fact that the Indian economy remains one of the fast growing economies.
FRAYER: India is booming. Within five years, it's forecast to surpass China as the most populous country in the world. Modi's government has struggled to create jobs for millions of youth who join the workforce each year. And unemployment is at a four-decade high. In this election campaign, Modi tacked away from failures on the jobs front and toward putting the country's majority-Hindu faith into politics and public life. As Modi supporters celebrate across India tonight, many of the country's minorities, including more than 180 million Muslims, may worry that this is a mandate for division rather than unity. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai.
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