NEW DELHI – Indian voters have given the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and their lead candidate, Narendra Modi, a mammoth mandate for running the next government.
Results announced Friday after a five-week election contest gave the BJP a commanding lead for at least 272 of 543 seats in Parliament. It was the first time in three decades that any single party in India has won a clear majority.
Some of the factors that played into the BJP's decisive victory over India's dynastic Congress party:
— ECONOMY: India's once-impressive economic growth, averaging above 8 percent over the last decade, slowed to below 5 percent in the last year while inflation rocketed into double digits. The BJP and Narendra Modi maintained a laser focus on the economy throughout the campaign, hammering the Congress party for stalled development projects while touting Modi's state of Gujarat as a model of success. In fact, Gujarat's growth has been mediocre compared with others of India's 28 states. But Modi's message resonated with an electorate aching for change and upward mobility, and India's corporate leaders backed Modi as the decisive administrator needed to revive industrial growth.
— CORRUPTION: Indians are incensed over the enduring culture of corruption at every level of government, from bureaucrats who demand bribes for basic services to lawmakers embroiled in huge scandals involving public funds. Anti-graft protests inspired a fierce anti-incumbency wave among voters and even inspired the launch of a new political party. But while some scandals have involved BJP members, Modi and his reputation are unscathed. Voters believe Modi has the political strength to curb any corrupt tendencies within his government.
— YOUTH: India's electorate is particularly young, with half the country's 814 million voters under 35 years old and eager to secure employment with promise. They are also impatient with India's political tradition of whipping up communal loyalties to secure votes from certain socio-economic groups, castes or religions.
— TECHNOLOGY: The BJP and Modi ran a breathless and tech-savvy campaign that dazzled and engaged voters directly through social media. Modi snapped campaign selfies that went viral and even appeared as a holograph at campaign events. He has tweeted daily for years. By contrast, his main rival from the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, shunned Twitter himself while his party took to the site only this year.
— INFRASTRUCTURE: India's crumbling roads and ports, plus lack of adequate electricity supply, were high on the list of problems that make business projects hard to get off the ground. They're also of paramount importance to voters, one-third of whom now live in cities. In Gujarat, Modi made infrastructure improvements a priority, building thousands of kilometers of highways and attracting investment to build up the country's largest modern port. He promised to bring the same focus if elected prime minister.