Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, claimed victory as India’s next Prime Minister on 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.
But his past is not without controversy. Throughout his campaign, his relationship with the country’s huge Muslim minority came under scrutiny.
In 2002, Gujarat state was wracked with anti-Muslim violence, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Modi, the state’s chief minister, was criticized for not doing enough to halt the violence, but a Supreme Court-ordered investigation absolved him of blame last year.
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 Congress Party, which has been dogged by high-profile corruption scandals amid stubborn inflation and a slowed economy.
“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.”
On Friday, three State Department officials told CNN that Modi will be given a visa to the United States once he takes office and forms a government.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Modi, saying in a tweet that he looks forward to “growing shared prosperity.”
“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.
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, where Modi has served as chief minister since 2001.
He tweeted: “Good days are here to come.” India has won
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.