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Nirmala Ganapathy
Friday, May 16, 2014

Asia

Modi calls for unity and healing after vitriolic campaign

The Straits Times | Nirmala Ganapathy | Friday, May 16, 2014

Indian voters, worried about jobs and angry about corruption, look set to turf out the ruling Congress party in the world's biggest election starting April 7, 2014, in favour of the opposition Hindu nationalists under hardliner Narendra Modi.

INDIA - Opposition prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has appealed for unity and bipartisanship after an unusually vitriolic campaign as exit polls suggested that his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and allies would win a majority.

Indian stock markets opened high yesterday on hopes of a stable government coming to power. Exit polls indicated the BJP-led alliance could win between 249 and 289 seats in the 543-seat Parliament. The halfway mark of 272 is for a simple majority.

Mr Modi, who was himself involved in slanging matches with the Congress Party's Mrs Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka, appealed to his rivals to put the election vitriol behind them.

"It is natural for the spirit of bipartisanship to get temporarily lost in the midst of an election campaign but now is the time to resurrect it," he said in a blog on Monday evening.

"Yes, as political parties and candidates, we have differing ideologies but our goal is one - to work for India. Let's place people over politics, hope over despair, healing over hurting, inclusion over exclusion and development over divisiveness."

India's five-week-long election, which ended on Monday, saw a record voter turnout of 66 per cent, besting the record of 64 per cent set in 1984 following a wave of sympathy triggered by the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The mudslinging and personal attacks in this election were unprecedented.

Mr Modi mocked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as a "princeling" while Congress president Sonia Gandhi accused Mr Modi of practising divisive politics and "sowing seeds of poison". Mr Modi has long been accused of doing little to stem the 2002 deadly riots in Gujarat where he is chief minister.

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