* BJP secures single majority as Congress faces debacle
* Manmohan quits today; Modi may take oath on May 21
* Good days are coming, says the Hindu nationalist leader
* Sonia, Rahul take responsibility for defeat
Narendra Modi is the next prime minister of India.
The Hindu nationalist leader thundered to victory in the general election, lifting the Bharatiya Janata Party to its highest-ever tally and leaving the ruling Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in tatters.
Modi and his party-led National Democratic Alliance won and led in 339 of the total of 543 Lok Sabha seats, much more than the majority needed to form a stable government without forming a coalition with smaller regional parties.
It is the most commanding victory Indian voters have given to a non-Congress party since independence in 1947.
In fact, even on its own, BJP can form the government as it is ahead in 285 seats, polls results showed yesterday. A majority of 272 seats in Lok Sabha is needed to form a government.
This is for the first time in three decades a party has got such a decisive electoral mandate since 1984 when Congress under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi had got unprecedented three-fourths majority riding on a sympathy wave following the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi.
On the other hand, the ruling Congress led by Sonia Gandhi is poised to crash to its worst electoral defeat struggling with bagging or leading in just 44 seats and the party led-United Progressive Alliance in 59.
The stunning results exceeded all poll forecasts, as firecrackers exploded at party offices around the country and sweets were handed out by BJP activists in celebrations that began only a few hours after the first figures filtered out soon after vote counting began at 8:00am.
With the BJP declaring the start of a “new era" in the world's biggest democracy, the ruling Congress conceded defeat.
Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, Congress vice president and scion of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, accepted moral responsibility for the party's humiliating debacle and wished all success to the new government.
Making a brief appearance before the media at the party headquarters without taking any questions, the two congratulated the new BJP government and wish all the best.
Rahul, who spearheaded the Congress campaign, said the BJP has got the mandate of the people. "I congratulate them... I wish them all the best".
He said Congress has done badly in the elections and will need to think about it. "As the Congress vice-president, with all humility I take responsibility for this."
Sonia said "the people's mandate is against us and I humbly accept the verdict... As Congress President, I take responsibility for it."
Extending congratulations to the new government, she, however, said, "We hope that it will not compromise with the social unity and national interests. Congress will continue to fight for its principles and will not make any compromise."
The tenure of Congress-led government comes to an end today when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh submits resignation to President Pranab Mukherjee.
After leading his party to the landslide victory, Modi tweeted "India has won!" He went to seek the blessings of his 90-year-old mother Heeraben in Ahmedabad.
He is expected to take oath on May 21.
In a gracious 45-minute speech at a victory rally in Vadodara city in his home state of Gujarat, one of the two parliamentary constituencies from he won, Modi said the government does not belong to any particular party but to all the people of the country.
"For a government, no one is a favourite, nor is anyone an alien," he asserted to a cheering crowd of supporters whom he thanked for giving him a victory by 5.70 lakh votes in Vadodara.
Committing himself to running the country in the best spirit of the constitution, Modi said "my responsibility is to take everyone along in running the nation."
"In a democracy, there are no enemies but only competitors. That competition ends with elections," he said, adding his motto is "sabka sath, sabka vikas (with all, development for all)."
“People wanted me to say something, but my wish was if I had to say something I would say it in Vadodara,” he told a lustily cheering crowd in Gujarat city 139 km from state capital Gandhinagar.
“How do you feel, tell me,” he posed to the crowd before engaging them in his by now known style of oratory. He used the “Ache din ane wale hain” (Good days are coming) catchphrase to great effect in his first address after the sweeping win.
Modi said “Achey din” and the crowd completed “aane wale hain”. This played out twice, adds The Hindustan Times.
Modi, the 63-year-old son of a tea vendor belonging to a socially backward caste, who had built a presidential-style campaign around him uncharacteristic of a party like BJP where personality cult is discouraged, won by a huge margin of over 5 lakh votes from Vadodara.
He was also leading in the temple town of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh against his upstart anti-graft outfit Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal.
Modi single-handedly led an indefatigable campaign travelling three lakh kilometres across India and celebrations erupted at BJP offices across the country including the flower-festooned party headquarters in Delhi.
BJP's previous best showing was in parliamentary elections in 1998 and 1999 under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the party had governed India till May 2004 when it was voted out of power by Congress and its allies.
One message that clearly emerges from the results of this time's elections is that while Congress has suffered massively due to anti-incumbency arising out of slowing economy, string of corruption cases hitting the party-led UPA government and mounting inflation, BJP has held on its own even in states where it is in power.
So comprehensive was the defeat of Congress that the party failed to win a single seat in a number of states including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and many of the party's federal ministers like Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and Sachin Pilot lost.
At the heart of BJP's remarkable show lies its unprecedented victory in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state with the highest number of 80 Lok Sabha seats, where the party is leading is set to bag 71 of the 80 seats, decimating traditional key players in UP Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav. BJP had won just ten seats in the previous national elections in the state.
BJP's win in Uttar Pradesh is a personal triumph for Modi and his close aide Amit Shah who was appointed by the former as the chief strategist to revive the party from a morass in Uttar Pradesh where regional caste-based outfits like Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party which have ruled the roost for close to two decades.
Congress, which had won 22 seats in 2009 in Uttar Pradesh, shrunk to only two with Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi retaining their Rae Bareli and Amethi seats respectively.
Another highlight of BJP's victory march was the party's remarkable performance in western state of Maharashtra where it, along with ally Shiv Sena, is poised to make a clean sweep of all but 7 of the total of 48 seats.
In eastern state of Bihar, one more key battleground state with a total of 40 seats, BJP got five seats and led in another 22.
In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee-led ruling Trinamool Congress checked the saffron surge by securing or leading in 34 out of the total of 42 seats.
Varun Gandhi won from Sultanpur on BJP ticket claiming his share of legacy in Nehru-Gandhi Bastion. His mother Maneka, also contesting as BJP candidate, is leading in Pilibhit. Mulayam Singh Yadav is leading in Mainpuri and his daughter-in-law Dimple is leading in Kannauj.
In the northeastern state of Assam, BJP led in seven of the total of 14 parliamentary seats while Congress, which rules the state, is ahead only in three.
Taking responsibility for the poor show by Congress, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said he would resign.
In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, AIADMK ruling the state is ahead in 36 of the total of 39 seats.