India's new PM receives hero's welcome

A hero's welcome awaited Narendra Modi in New Delhi after stunning election win.

Chief Minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi (R) receives a garland from party leader Nitin Gadkari (L) after arriving at party headquarters in New Delhi on 17 May 2014. Picture: AFP/SAJJAD HUSSAIN

NEW DELHI - A hero's welcome awaited Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Saturday after he thundered to victory in India's election, trouncing the ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in a seismic political shift that gives his party a mandate for sweeping economic reform.

A brass band struck up early in the morning at the capital's airport as thousands of supporters awaited Modi's arrival from the western state of Gujarat, where the night before he had addressed a sea of jubilant voters chanting his name.

Modi's landslide win for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) closes off a chapter of fragile coalition governments, giving the former tea-seller ample room to advance reforms started 23 years ago by current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but which have stalled in recent years.

Despite his party's pasting, 81-year-old Singh was magnanimous in his final address to the nation on Saturday, wishing the incoming government success.

"I am confident about the future of India," he said in his televised message. "I firmly believe that the emergence of India as a major powerhouse of the evolving global economy is an idea whose time has come."

Unlike Singh and his predecessors, Modi will not have to deal with unruly partners to implement reform. That could usher in profound economic changes, with some supporters imagining him as India's answer to former British leader Margaret Thatcher.

With more than six times the seats of his closest rival, Modi's is the most decisive mandate for a leader since the 1984 assassination of Congress party Prime Minister Indira Gandhi propelled her son to office. Starting with the subsequent election in 1989, India has been governed by coalitions.

"Tsunamo!" declared the Asian Age newspaper on its front page, playing on the name 'NaMo' often used for Modi.

"Modi juggernaut crushes Congress," the Business Standard's headline exclaimed after Friday's results showed the party of the Gandhis and Prime Minister Singh suffered its worst-ever wipe-out, winning just 44 of the 543 parliamentary seats at stake in the election that was staggered over five weeks.

With almost all seats declared by Saturday morning, Modi's BJP looked set to win 282 seats, 10 more than the majority required to rule. With its allied parties, it was heading for a comfortable tally of around 337.