Modi poised for victory as India veers right

NEW DELHI- Narendra Modi closed in on a landslide victory in India’s election Friday as results showed him riding a wave of support for promises of jobs and development that has drowned out his past as a religious right-winger.

Counting at the climax of the marathon six-week election showed his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on track for a crushing win, with the Congress party nearing humiliating defeat after 10 years in power.

“It seems very bleak at the moment,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi admitted early in the day, with preliminary figures showing the BJP leading in 231 out of 460 constituencies where counting had begun.

Congress led in just 48.

“I will accept victory on behalf of the BJP,” party spokeswoman Meenakshi Lekhi told NDTV news channel.

Modi, a 63-year-old son of a low-caste tea seller, has reinvented himself from a controversial regional leader tainted by anti-Muslim riots to an aspiring prime minister intent on helping India fulfill its potential.

After a presidential-style campaign built around him and his record running western Gujarat state, expectations are sky-high of what Modi will deliver in a chaotic and still poor country that is home to a sixth of humanity.

Tonnes of sweets and fireworks have been delivered to BJP headquarters in New Delhi in anticipation of a landslide, while party workers beat drums and waved flags in Gujarat on Friday.

Stock markets, which have risen 5.0 percent in the past week, surged again. The benchmark index known as the Sensex jumped more than four percent on Friday morning to a record high.

Investors and the larger public have rediscovered heady — many say unrealistic — optimism about the world’s largest democracy after years of frustration about low economic growth, rising food prices and corruption.