New Delhi: Narendra Modi created history on his way to becoming India's 14th prime minister as he led the BJP to a spectacular victory in a Lok Sabha battle that crushed the Congress and others ranged against him and gave, for the first time in 30 years, any party a majority in parliament on its own.
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Even political pundits gasped at the sheer scale of the Bharatiya Janata Party's sweep that election officials said was poised to give it a comfortable majority in the 545-member Lok Sabha even without the aid of its old and new allies.
The Congress, India's oldest party which had ruled the country for a decade since 2004, faced its worst humiliation. It had won three seats and was leading only in 39 more -- its worst tally in the Lok Sabha where it had never fallen to two digits. The Congress won 206 seats in 2009.
If it gets less than ten percent of the total number of Lok Sabha seats, its president may not be recognised as the Leader of Opposition, a cabinet rank.
The Congress did not win a single seat in seven states and it was unlikely to win more than 10 seats in any state.
A chastened Congress accepted defeat. Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Modi who is still the Gujarat chief minister. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh summed up the mood in the country's oldest party by saying: "Our performance is worse than the worst case scenario."
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who won easily from Rae Bareli unlike her son Rahul Gandhi, added: "The people's verdict is against us." Both took responsibility for the defeat, congratulated the BJP but didn't name Modi.
As an army of officials continued to count the 550 million votes 1.72 million electronic voting machines polled across the country, the BJP had won 26 seats and was leading in a whopping 255 others by 4 p.m.
The BJP is thus poised to bag a total of 281 seats in the Lok Sabha, where a party needs 272 for a simple majority. Modi is expected to be sworn in prime minister by President Pranab Mukherjee on May 21.
A visibly jubilant Modi promptly called on his ageing mother, the one person he respects the most, in Gandhinagar. Party colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "The results show the people of India love Modi."
"The most fundamental factor behind such a decisive mandate is the all India anti-Congress sentiment," political commentator Dipankar Gupta said.
BJP president Rajnath Singh described the party's victory as "superb" and said "a new era has begun in Indian politics." Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raj said Modi had "electrified the nation." Amit Shah, Modi's closest aide, declared that India was poised to see major changes in politics.
The BJP was poised to win all but seven seats in Uttar Pradesh which elects the maximum of 80 members to the Lok Sabha. The BJP-led combine was also poised to bag 31 of the 40 seats in neighbouring Bihar.
Interestingly, three of the four regional parties which too did well in their strongholds were not allied with Modi even if their leaders have had good equations with him.
Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK led by Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa will be the third largest party in the Lok Sabha. It was on the victory lap in 36 of the state's 39 seats - a showing that punctured long-time rival DMK.
In West Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress decimated the Left. It won three of the 42 seats and was leading all others in 31 constituencies. The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha is set to win 20 of the 21 seats.
The BJP's oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, was on the victory lap in 19 of the 48 constituencies. The Shiv Sena-BJP combine would win 40 seats in the state.
The stock market shot up on news of the imminent BJP victory.
All BJP stalwarts won easily including Narendra Modi, from both Vadodara in Gujarat and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Other prominent BJP victors were L.K. Advani (Gandhinagar), Rajnath Singh (Lucknow), Murli Manohar Joshi (Kanpur), Nitin Gadkari (Nagpur) and Sushma Swaraj (Vidisha).
The only BJP leader who lost was Arun Jaitley, leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha who was trounced by former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress in Amritsar.
Tens of thousands of BJP supporters celebrated the party's victory all over the country. In New Delhi, thousands gathered at the BJP headquarters dancing, bursting firecrakcers and distributing sweets.
Many Congress veterans bit the dust. They included Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Ambika Soni, Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ajay Maken and Pawan Kumar Bansal.
The Left too suffered a major blow. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, who claimed he would easily defeat Modi in Varanasi, lost by more than 200,000 votes.
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