India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a dramatic election victory on Thursday, giving his Hindu nationalist party an increase in its majority with a mandate for business-friendly policies and a tough stand on national security. His re-election reinforces a global trend of nationalist conservatives sweeping to victory in the United States, Brazil, and across Europe.
Official data from the Election Commission showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies capturing 316 seats out of 542 in the Parliament, compared to the Congress Party (UPA) led by Rahul Gandhi and its allies dropping to 87 seats. The BJP now has the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984.
Data shows the BJP outspent the Congress party by six times on Facebook and Google advertising and by as much as 20 times overall. PM Modi was showered with rose petals as he arrived at party headquarters by thousands of cheering supporters who waited for hours in a thunderstorm for his arrival Thursday evening. He said to his critics who believed he would not succeed, “The political pundits of India have to leave behind their ideas of the past.”
Investors welcomed the victory, hoping PM Modi’s government will push through reforms. PM Modi has slashed red tape in the world’s fifth-largest economy and faces demands to provide jobs for the tens of millions of Millennials and to boost depressed farm incomes. In addition to a harder line on national security, BJP members expect PM Modi to allow progress on a project of building a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindus in the northern holy town of Ayodhya in 1992.
Leader of the main opposition Congress party Rahul Gandhi, who has now been twice defeated in general elections by PM Modi, refused to rule out resigning as party chief in a brief televised news conference. Mr. Gandhi, whose father, grandmother, and great-grandfather all served as Prime Minister, lost his own seat to the BJP candidate in the northern constituency of Amethi that the family has held almost continuously for the last four decades.
Rahul Verma, a fellow at the center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said, “The Congress party has not been able to improve at all. One big story is the emerging challenge for the Congress to remain a national alternative to the BJP. That now is under question.”