Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi claims victory as India’s next prime minister

By Madison Park and Harmeet Shah Singh
CNN, Fri May 16, 2014

New
Delhi (CNN) — Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party, claimed victory as India’s next prime minister
Friday, bringing to power a man whose controversial past at one point
led the United States to deny him a visa.

Official results were expected late Friday.

Viewed as pro-business, Modi, 63, has pledged reforms to revive the nation’s flagging economy.

Manmohan
Singh, India’s outgoing Prime Minister, will tender his resignation to
the nation’s President on Saturday, said Singh’s spokesman, Pankaj
Pachauri. The Prime Minister’s official Twitter account said Singh had
called Modi to congratulate him on his “party’s victory.”

Analysts
predict his arrival in India’s top office will bring a marked change in
direction for the world’s most populous democracy, a nation whose
modern character has been defined by the defeated Indian National
Congress Party, which has been dominant since the country’s independence
in 1947.

Modi’s victory had long been anticipated, as polls
indicated a slump in support for the ruling Indian National Congress
Party, which has been dogged by high-profile corruption scandals amid
stubborn inflation and a slowed economy.

Congress Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala told CNN, “Trends indicate a victory for the opposition alliance.

“We
bow before the wishes of the people of India with all humility. We will
continue to play the role assigned to us. We will try with greater
vigor and determination to work with the large populace of this
country.”

Modi’s ascent to the national stage

Celebrations
broke out as updates from the five-week-long election were released
throughout the day. Modi’s supporters sang, danced, played music, threw
flowers and even brought elephants into the mix as initial results
indicated a huge lead for the BJP. Supporters celebrated outside the
party’s office and in the streets in Gujarat, the state where Modi has
served as chief minister since 2001.

He tweeted: “Good days are here to come.”

At
a news conference, BJP chief Rajnath Singh declared, “Till some time
ago, it was said India’s success story is over. Now, the time has come
to rewrite India’s success story.”

India’s potential for growth
was once mentioned in the same breath as that of China. But the world’s
second-most populous nation has not delivered.

Modi, a former tea
seller, sprang into the national spotlight for his work in Gujarat,
where he cultivated an image of a man who gets things done.

Gujarat,
a state of some 60 million people, has seen China-like rates of growth
in recent years, which have been eyed enviously by the rest of the
country. The “Gujarat model” of development means a focus on
infrastructure, urbanization and eradicating red tape.

India’s stock market surged Friday as initial results suggested a huge lead for Modi and his party.

Modi’s relationship with the rest of the world

Throughout his campaign, his relationship with the country’s huge Muslim minority has come under scrutiny.

In
2002, Gujarat was wracked with anti-Muslim violence, in which more than
1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. Modi was criticized for not
doing enough to halt the violence, but a Supreme Court-ordered
investigation absolved him of blame last year.

The United States
denied Modi a visa over the anti-Muslim violence in 2005, suggesting a
strained relationship between the U.S. and India’s next Prime Minister.

The
U.S. State Department has not said what it will do when Modi applies
for a visa in the future now that he is an elected leader, but
reiterated that India is an important partner.

“We don’t talk
about visa applications,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said
this week. “We’re looking forward to working with the new Indian
government when they’re elected.”

The tensions between Modi and
the United States in the past could have an impact on relations during
his term, said Arati Jerath, an analyst and journalist in India.

“There
is a feeling that Narendra Modi will be much more pro-China than
pro-U.S., and that could be rooted to the fact that he’s had this
tension with the United States over his visa, whereas the Chinese laid
out the red carpet for him,” Jerath said.

UK Foreign Minister
William Hague congratulated Modi and his party, saying Britain looked
“forward to forging an even closer partnership with India.”

CNN’s Mallika Kapur, Sumnima Udas and Tim Hume contributed to this report.

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