Narendra Modi will be the next prime minister of India, after early election results on Friday put his pro-business Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and allies well on course to clear the majority of 272 seats required to govern. Even by itself, the BJP appeared close to an outright majority.
"India has won. Good days are coming," Modi wrote in a first response on his official Twitter account. The 63-year-old's conservative party looked set to win by a larger margin than pollsters predicted, with the Hindu nationalists declaring the results "the start of a new era" in the world's largest democracy.
The ruling Congress party acknowledged the results on Friday.
"We accept defeat. We are ready to sit in the opposition," senior Congress leader and spokesman Rajeev Shukla told reporters at party headquarters in New Delhi. "Modi promised the moon and stars to the people. People bought that dream."
Preliminary results suggested that Congress would win just 49 seats and was staring its worst ever election results in the face.
Campaign against corruption
Modi ran on a campaign of pro-business policies and reduced corruption, in a hotly-contested election with record turnout of 66.38 percent, compared to 58-13 percent last time out in 2009. Around 500 million people participated in India mammoth ballot, which began on April 7.
BJP staff and campaigners celebrated at party headquarters in New Delhi, dancing outside and setting off firecrackers, saying the results outstripped their expectations.
"That certainly is good news, which we will savor with great delight," party spokeswoman Nirmala Seetharaman said, adding it showed Modi and the voters had connected.
Modi was formerly the chief minister for his home region of Gujarat. He's credited for presiding over economic growth and a regional government without major corruption problems, but critics blame him for inactivity during some of India's worst Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002. Around 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in the 2002 Gujarat unrest - the US and EU only officially lifted outstanding travel bans against Modi in the run-up to India's elections earler this year.
Exit polls on NDTV and CNN-IBN forecast that the BJP's coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, was on course to win between 316 and 328 seats in India's parliament.
India's Election Commission was scheduled to announce finalized results later on Friday.
msh/jm (AFP, Reuters)