India awoke amid an unprecedented buzz of excitement and anticipation today as the Election Commission began counting the 550 million votes cast in the recently concluded general elections. Millions of Indians tuned into TV debates and radio sets from early in the morning, looking into the various permutations and combinations of political equations as the latest updates on the counting process trickled in. Everything came to a screeching halt in offices, universities and neighborhoods, with the only important topic of discussion being the possible outcome of the polls.
Within a matter of hours, the trends were clear -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had swept the elections with a singular majority, decimating the ruling Congress party and other opponents.
In a historic climax to one of India's most explosive elections in recent years, the BJP -- led by its firebrand PM candidate Narendra Modi -- is set to form the next government with a mandate of 280 seats (In India's 543-seat parliament, a party needs to secure at least 272 seats to form the government). A thumping single party majority such as this also marks the end of India's tryst with weak coalitions.
BJP seems to have successfully ripped into India's voter base with Modi's magnetic charisma and an agenda of hope, riding high on a wave of anti-incumbency against the government. The Congress too has acknowledged defeat, having clinched only 47 seats as per the latest count in an embarrassing rout. Several of its key leaders have lost the battle to BJP candidates, signaling a clear shift in voter inclinations.
The much-celebrated 'Modi wave' has penetrated and prevailed across the country, with a confident authority that is reflected in the BJP's simple yet hard-hitting pitch, "Ab ki baar, Modi sarkaar" (This time around, go for Modi government). Despite misgivings of certain sections -- Modi is yet to completely wipe off the perception of being a 'divisive leader' in the civil society -- an overwhelming number of voters have extended strong support to the BJP. One of the reasons behind this has been the BJP's ability of effectively communicating an infectious feeling of optimism and euphoria -- the party's poll slogan, "Acche din aane wale hain" (Good days are about to come), for instance, has captured public imagination across rural and urban Indian hinterlands.
Evidently, these efforts have struck a chord among voters frustrated with the 10 years of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime.
A nation, divided by caste, religious, regional and linguistic divides, seems to have united against brazen corruption, rising prices of essential commodities, underdevelopment, lack of job opportunities and perceived government apathy. The vote reflects a collective feeling of anger and pain over multi-billion dollar scams, misgovernance and policy rut, and indicates that the Indian voter can rise above petty politics and regional identity in the presence of a strong national leader. In a nutshell, the Indian mandate of 2014 is one of hope and expectations.
And this is a good trend, because at stake is India's future. India's 4.8 percent growth has been reminiscent of the slowdown witnessed in the 1980s. The country needs at least an 8 percent growth rate to create new jobs for the 10 million youth who are joining the workforce every year, claim experts.
Clearly, reviving economic growth, creating jobs, reining in graft, improving infrastructure and industrial production need to be on the agenda of the incoming government.
The onus now lies with Modi and the BJP to live up to popular expectations and drive Indian growth with inclusive policies.
(Samarth Pathak is a journalist and advocacy expert based in New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.)