India's PM-elect Narendra Modi receives hero's welcome in Delhi
Hundreds of flag-waving Bharatiya Janata party supporters celebrate at capital's airport after landslide election victory
Martin Williams and Jason Burke
theguardian.com, Saturday 17 May 2014 10.58 BST
Link to video: Narendra Modi arrives in New Delhi to hero's welcomehttp://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/17/india-narendra-modi-new-delhi-heros-welcome-video
India's prime minister-elect, Narendra Modi, basked in a hero's welcome as he arrived in Delhi after a historic election victory by the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) which transformed the political landscape of the world's largest democracy.
A brass band, drummers and bagpipes played while hundreds of supporters waving BJP flags met Modi at the capital's airport on Saturday after his address to voters in the western state of Gujarat on Friday night.
With almost all 543 seats declared by Saturday morning, Modi's BJP looked set to win 282 seats, 10 more than the majority required to rule, and was heading for a tally of about 337 with its allied parties. The BJP said he will not formally take office until after Tuesday.
In his first speech after winning the landslide victory, the Hindu nationalist leader pledged to work for all 1.25 billion of his fellow Indians.
"The age of divisive politics has ended – from today onwards the politics of uniting people will begin," Modi, 63, told a crowd of ecstatic supporters on Friday.
Narendra Modi supporters dance as they wait for the BJP leader to arrive in Delhi Dancers perform as Modi supporters wait for the BJP leader to arrive in Delhi. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images
"Brothers, sisters, you have faith in me and I have faith in you," he said. "The people of this country have given their verdict. This verdict says we have to make the dreams of 1.25 billion people come true. I must work hard."
Modi's victory for the BJP closes a chapter of coalition governments that began with the 1989 elections, after the assassination of the Congress party prime minister Indira Gandhi five years earlier. It also signals the end of an era dominated by the descendants of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister.
Describing himself as a worker Modi is the son of a tea-stall owner and an outsider to Delhi political circles. "Four to five generations have been wasted since 1952. This victory has been achieved after that," Modi said, in a jibe at the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress party it dominates.
In a televised speech the outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh, said he was confident about the future of India. He said: "I firmly believe that the emergence of India as a major powerhouse of the evolving global economy is an idea whose time has come."
World leaders have rushed to phone the new premier. Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of neighbouring Pakistan, with which India has fought four wars, invited Modi to visit.
The US president, Barack Obama, did likewise, even though Modi was barred from the country less than 10 years ago under a law preventing entry to foreigners who had committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom".
Modi, who has been dogged by accusations of sectarian prejudice, has tried to reassure those within India and beyond its borders who fear he will prove a divisive leader, promising "good times ahead" for India.
"To run the country we need to take everyone with us, all together and I seek your blessings to succeed in this endeavour," he said.
Though a BJP win was expected, few predicted such a crushing victory. The size of Modi's mandate means he will not have to work with allies and can set his own agenda, with the party's regional strength likely to be reinforced at local elections in coming months.
About 100 million voters cast a ballot for the first time. Support among the young appears to be a key reason for the BJP's success. Another is inroads made into rural areas and traditional "votebanks" of the Congress party, such as those at the bottom of the caste system.
Since being named as his party's candidate last September, Modi has flown more than 185,000 miles and addressed 457 rallies in a slick presidential-style campaign that has broken the mould of Indian politics.
A huge social media effort has reached out to voters across the nation. Modi received more than seven times the media coverage of his chief rival, one study showed.
Modi's "Development For All" message appeared to have struck a chord with frustrated voters, particularly the young, across the nation.
It also countered accusations of sectarian prejudice, allowing BJP campaigners to argue that they believed in genuine equality because the party wants no communities to receive special treatment.
A Delhi resident reads a newspaper with the BJP’s election victory on the front A Delhi resident reads a morning paper after the BJP’s landslide victory. Photograph: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images
At the Congress headquarters, only a mile from those of the BJP, there was a very different mood. "It is very disappointing for us all, but we accept the verdict of the people. Congress has bounced back before and we are confident that we will bounce back again," said Rajeev Shukla, a former minister and senior party official.
The outgoing government was hit by allegations of corruption, its failure to rein in runaway inflation and faltering growth. India needs to create 10m jobs each year for new jobseekers alone, an area where the Congress officials admit they had difficulty. Others blamed the defeat on a failure to communicate the party's achievements in their 10 years in power.
At a chaotic press conference late on Friday afternoon, Sonia Gandhi, the president of Congress, admitted the party had done "pretty badly" and accepted responsibility for its worst ever defeat.
She called on the new government to avoid divisive policies and said her own party would focus on grassroots work. Gandhi held her constituency of Rae Bareli, an exception in a rout of dozens of senior Congress figures.
******************Narendra Modi’s Ambitious Agenda Will Face Difficult Obstacles
By ELLEN BARRY
MAY 16, 2014
NEW DELHI — Addressing a euphoric crowd Friday afternoon, Narendra Modi rallied the public to join him in taking on challenges of a vast scale. He has floated the idea of building “a hundred new cities,” of extending a high-speed rail network across the subcontinent and undertaking the herculean task of cleaning the Ganges River.
He has been inspired by China’s model of high-growth, top-down development. But the country he will govern is India: messy, diffuse and democratic.
Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a historic mandate in the country’s general election on Friday, emerging with 282 of 543 parliamentary seats, more than enough to form a government without having to broker a post-election coalition.
For months, Mr. Modi’s advisers had focused on crossing such a threshold, which they regarded as a signal that the country was behind an agenda of radical change.
The nature of that change has never been clear, though. Voters are seeking immediate economic opportunities. The party has proposed pro-business legislation like the easing of labor and land-acquisition laws. Mr. Modi is drawn to large-scale building and infrastructure projects, which he pursues with a single-minded — critics say dictatorial — style.
“He has a fairly clear idea of what he wants to accomplish, and he does not look for ratification from the market,” said Eswar S. Prasad, a Cornell University economist who has consulted informally with Mr. Modi’s economic team. “One could argue that in a country where there are far more words than actions thrown around, that this is far more preferable: a man who acts.”
Mr. Modi’s planned economic reforms are certain to encounter obstacles once he takes power, among them a federal system that puts essential functions like land acquisition in the hands of state leaders.
Entrenched national-level functionaries will resist efforts to strip their authority by eliminating red tape, a goal that was central to Mr. Modi’s plan to attract investors to the state of Gujarat. Changing tax policy or labor and land laws would require the support of the upper house of Parliament, which the Bharatiya Janata Party does not control. Meanwhile, voters’ expectations of immediate economic improvement are perilously high, setting the stage for rapid disappointment if Mr. Modi is seen as not delivering.
But Friday’s enormous victory will give Mr. Modi “a much freer hand than the typical leader of such a large democracy,” Mr. Prasad said. The reasons Mr. Modi’s party succeeded in defeating the Indian National Congress, which has controlled India’s government for nearly all of its postcolonial history, will be studied for years. But they clearly reflect a rapid change in Indian society as urbanization and economic growth break down old voting patterns.
For decades, the Congress party’s trademark initiatives have been redistributive, and the party introduced a package of major subsidies for the poor before the election. Voters, however, proved to be more captivated by Mr. Modi’s promise to create manufacturing jobs, which he has done quite successfully in Gujarat, the state he has governed since 2001.
Despite a period of rising incomes, a tide of economic discontent helped make Narendra Modi the prime minister-elect.
Mr. Modi, 63, the son of a provincial tea-seller, prides himself on being an outsider amid New Delhi’s elite, and he recently promised in an interview with Open magazine that he would “break the status quo.” He was profoundly imprinted by his years as a full-time activist for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization, and his earliest and most frequent trips as an elected official were to other countries in Asia, which shaped his vision of India as a manufacturing power.
A cultural conservative, he is no admirer of the liberal intellectuals who traditionally support the Congress party. Swapan Dasgupta, a journalist who supports Mr. Modi, said Delhi elites were worried — justifiably — that the space for their work would shrink when the new government settles in.
“I cannot say what the contours of the future political elite or political class will look like,” he said. “He has brought in lots of people who have risen from local politics, less of those people who are traditional dynasts. A new sort of people, perhaps a little technocratic. People not from the Anglophone elite, maybe.”
The mood at Congress headquarters on Friday was funereal. Top officials had prepared for a loss, but not for the crushing defeat they faced; according to final results from the Election Commission, the party had secured only 44 seats, a surprisingly low number for the party that was integral to India’s founding narrative.
The president of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, and her son, Rahul, made a brief appearance at the headquarters late in the afternoon, when celebratory firecrackers could be heard from B.J.P. headquarters nearby. Mr. Gandhi, who has never appeared comfortable in his role as the party’s standard-bearer, kept an odd, fixed smile on his face, acknowledging that the party had “done pretty badly.” His mother, who reinvigorated the party after her husband, Rajiv, was killed by a suicide bomber in 1991, conceded defeat without mentioning Mr. Modi or the B.J.P.
“We believe that in a democracy winning and losing is part of the game,” Mrs. Gandhi said. “This time the mandate is clearly against us. I accept the mandate with humility. I hope that the incoming government will not compromise with the interests of society.”
A Congress-led coalition won a solid majority of seats in 2009 parliamentary elections, but the term was tarnished by corruption scandals and a slowing economy. Party workers, dully flipping through television news channels in a room with portraits of four generations of Nehru-Gandhi politicians on Friday, complained that the party’s grass-roots workers no longer had contact with Mr. Gandhi and his advisers, and had failed to identify shifts among young voters.
Rajendra Pal Singh, a clerk with the party for more than 30 years, sadly recalled a time when the party faithful streamed in and out of the party’s bungalow as if it were “a place of worship.”
“Gone are the days of the Gandhis,” Mr. Singh said. “We have not seen people coming here to hug Rahul for the past decade on any of those festivals. That culture is dead and long gone, like the Congress party now.”
Addressing a euphoric throng in the city of Vadodara after votes were counted on Friday, Mr. Modi was forced to pause repeatedly as he waited for the audience to stop chanting his name. Mr. Modi, normally an intensely solitary man, draws visible pleasure from his interactions with crowds, and he seemed on Friday to enlist their support for vast undertakings.
“Brothers and sisters, you have faith in me, and I have faith in you,” Mr. Modi said. “This is the strength of our confidence — that we have the capacity to fulfill the common man’s aspirations. The citizens of this country have done three centuries of work today.”
His supporters celebrated. Drummers, stilt-walkers and women in colorful saris converged at B.J.P. headquarters in New Delhi, where party workers had laid out 100,000 laddoos, the ball-shaped sweets that are ubiquitous at Indian celebrations. Among the revelers was Surinder Singh Tiwana, 40, a lawyer.
“I can equate my jubilation today, probably, to my mother’s on the day I was born,” Mr. Tiwana said. “This is a huge change for our country, a change of guard. A billion plus people have announced their mandate in no uncertain terms.”
***************For India’s Persecuted Muslim Minority, Caution Follows Hindu Party’s Victory
By GARDINER HARRIS
MAY 16, 2014
NEW DELHI — Like real estate agents the world over, Rahul Rewal asks his clients if they have children or pets, since both limit options. But there is another crucial but often unspoken question: Are they Muslim?
“I tailor the list of places that I show Muslims because many landlords, even in upper-class neighborhoods, will not rent to them,” Mr. Rewal said. “Most don’t even bother hiding their bigotry.”
Discrimination against Muslims in India is so rampant that many barely muster outrage when telling of the withdrawn apartment offers, rejected job applications and turned-down loans that are part of living in the country for them. As a group, Muslims have fallen badly behind Hindus in recent decades in education, employment and economic status, with persistent discrimination a key reason. Muslims are more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities and less likely to qualify for bank loans.
Now, after a landslide electoral triumph Friday by the Bharatiya Janata Party of Hindu nationalists, some Muslims here said they were worried that their place in India could become even more tenuous.
Despite a period of rising incomes, a tide of economic discontent helped make Narendra Modi the prime minister-elect.
“Fear is a basic part of politics, and it’s actually how politicians gain respect, but for us fear also comes from the general public,” said Zahir Alam, the imam of Bari Masjid, a mosque in East Delhi, in an interview Friday. “The meaning of minority has never been clearer than it is today.”
The B.J.P. is led by Narendra Modi, who is widely expected to become India’s next prime minister. Mr. Modi — a Hindu, like a majority of Indians — has a fraught relationship with Muslims, who make up about 15 percent of the country. He was in charge of the western state of Gujarat in 2002 when uncontrolled rioting caused 1,000 deaths, mostly among Muslims. He has also been linked with a police assassination squad that largely targeted Muslims.
But Mr. Modi ran a campaign that focused on promises of development and good governance, and that largely avoided religiously divisive themes. His allies say there is no reason for Muslims to fear a national government led by him, and in interviews on Friday, many Muslims said they believed that.
B.J.P. candidates won in 102 constituencies where Muslims make up at least one in five voters, up from just 24 of these seats in 2009, according to a Reuters analysis. Mohammad Sabir, 25, who supplies parts for fans at a business in Varanasi, said that while he did not vote for Mr. Modi, he did not fear an administration led by him.
“He is now a national leader, and he needs to focus on nation building,” Mr. Sabir said. “If he cannot take everyone along, then he cannot succeed.”
Mr. Modi’s victory came in large measure from India’s aspirational urban electorate, who yearn for a better future for themselves and their children. Christophe Jaffrelot, a professor at King’s College London, said that rapid urbanization and a growing middle class were softening barriers among Hindu castes, but that the same forces had increased divisions between Hindus and Muslims.
“In the village, you are bound to meet Muslim families because it’s such a small universe,” he said. “In the cities, you have these vast ghettos.”
Mr. Modi won a huge majority in the electorally critical state of Uttar Pradesh, in part because of deadly riots last year that broke a traditional voting alliance between low-caste Hindus and Muslims. But now that he has won, Mr. Modi must reassure India’s Muslims, said Neerja Chowdhury, a political commentator.
“Many people in India and around the world will be watching whether he reaches out to minorities in the coming days,” Ms. Chowdhury said.
Tavleen Singh, an Indian author and admirer of Mr. Modi, said that critics of Mr. Modi focused on his ties to rioting and assassinations without pointing out that such violence has long been part of Indian society.
India was born in 1947 amid the blood-soaked horror of partition, which split British India into Muslim-dominated Pakistan and largely Hindu India. Riots in New Delhi in 1984 after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards led to the killing of thousands of Sikhs, with leaders of the Indian National Congress participating. Violence among castes has long been a regular feature of rural life in India.
“It’s an ugly Indian reality,” Ms. Singh said.
But that is exactly why Mr. Modi is such a poor choice as prime minister, said Siddharth Varadarajan, the former editor of The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper. Many among India’s liberal intelligentsia see Mr. Modi as a threat to India’s secularism, which is enshrined in its Constitution. It is a characteristic that distinguishes India from Pakistan and binds a nation of extraordinary diversity.
“Many of the things that are evil about India are not going to find their solution with Mr. Modi,” Mr. Varadarajan said. “If anything, they’ll get worse.”
In recent months, residents of a well-to-do Hindu neighborhood of a small city in Gujarat have protested outside a home purchased in January by a Muslim, saying his presence would disturb the peace and lower property values — the same arguments used for decades in the American South to exclude blacks from white neighborhoods.
In Mumbai this year, a ship captain credited with helping to rescue about 722 Indians from Kuwait after the 1990 Iraqi invasion said he was unable to buy an apartment in an affluent section of the city because no one would sell to a Muslim.
Zia Haq, an assistant editor at The Hindustan Times, said it had taken him nearly a year to find an apartment in New Delhi several years ago because he kept looking in neighborhoods dominated by Hindus who refused to rent to him. He finally found an apartment in a Muslim slum.
“This is the story of every middle-class Muslim who moves to a city in India,” Mr. Haq said. “Sometimes landlords are very upfront and say they won’t rent to Muslims. Others have excuses, like they have decided not to rent the place at all.”
But some Muslims say that such experiences demonstrate that Mr. Modi is hardly unusual in his difficulties with Muslims, and that his economic credentials make him worthy of leading the nation.
At Hyderabad’s Moazzamjahi Market, a crenelated stone complex with a mix of businesses run by Hindus and Muslims, Syed Jaleel, 56, the owner of a fruit and vegetable stand that sells produce from his farm, said he was delighted by Mr. Modi’s victory.
“Riots don’t matter because they happen all the time,” he said, clutching a lemonade to help cool off in the heat. “What matters is business development — just look at how Modi developed Gujarat. They don’t even have power cuts. He’ll do the same for the country now.”