Adoring Hindu nationalists give Modi election victory parade

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi flashes a victory sign as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate its win (ARUN SANKAR)
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi flashes a victory sign as he arrives at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters to celebrate its win (ARUN SANKAR)

His hands outstretched flashing victory signs, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hailed by his adoring Hindu nationalist party faithful with a rock star-like welcome to celebrate a third term Tuesday.

The 73-year-old beamed a wide grin as crowds cheered and reached forward to touch his hand at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national headquarters in New Delhi.

Modi showed no visible sign of disappointment that he had not won the landslide he had wanted, powering through gold ticker tape flurries down a narrow corridor between his admirers.

"I am indebted to all fellow citizens for their support and love," he told cheering crowds.

Victory for Modi -- whose BJP and allies were on track to win 291 out of 543 elected seats -- rested on the premier's appeal to the Hindu majority, and he reached out to thank his supporters.

"I bow in front of all those who voted and all the people of India," he said, waving at the crowds.

Dressed in his usual attire of a gleaming white kurta flowing shirt and trousers -- with a blue waistcoat on top -- Modi promised a "new chapter for development" for the country.

"We will move forward with new energy, new enthusiasm and new resolve," he added.

- 'No contender' -

Loyalists had begun partying in BJP centres soon after counting started on Tuesday --  some launched fireworks while others banged out beats on drums, all wrapped in the saffron of the Hindu faith.

Among the throng, there seemed little recognition that the BJP's much derided opposition rivals had, for the first time in a decade, ensured Modi's party failed to secure an overall majority of its own.

"Apart from Modi, there is no contender," said 26-year-old BJP supporter Akash Sharma.

But figures from the election commission showed the BJP will need to rely on its alliance partners to push through legislation in this parliament.

BJP supporter Apoorva Shukla, 23, said she was excited about the next term.

"The kind of development we've had in the past 10 years, I believe it's going to be a level higher this time," she said.

The polls were staggering in their size and logistical complexity, with voters casting their ballots in megacities New Delhi and Mumbai, as well as in sparsely populated forest areas and the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.

US think tank Freedom House said this year that the BJP had "increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents".

But Modi declared: "Our victory is a win of the world's biggest democracy."

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