Landslide win for Indian opposition party

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Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and India’s next prime minister Narendra Modi addresses a gathering of supporters after his landslide victory in Vadodara, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Friday, May 16, 2014. Modi will be India’s next prime minister, winning the most decisive victory the country has seen in more than a quarter century and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power, partial results showed Friday. (AP Photo/ Dharmesh Jobanputra)

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and India’s next prime minister Narendra Modi addresses a gathering of supporters after his landslide victory in Vadodara, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Friday, May 16, 2014. Modi will be India’s next prime minister, winning the most decisive victory the country has seen in more than a quarter century and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power, partial results showed Friday. (AP Photo/ Dharmesh Jobanputra)

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and India’s next prime minister Narendra Modi greets the gathering at the home of his 90-year-old mother in Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Friday, May 16, 2014. The top official in Gujarat state for over a decade, Modi often contrasted his humble roots with the posh background of his main rival, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi, heir to India’s most powerful political dynasty. As the career politician led his party through a dazzling, high-tech election campaign, Modi called voters’ attention to his mother riding a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw to cast her ballot earlier this month. “I am the chief minister of a prosperous state … And my 90-year-old mother goes to vote in an auto-rickshaw,” the white-bearded Modi boasted, punching a fist through the air as he claimed his place by India’s poor masses. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters dance to celebrate preliminary results that showed the BJP winning by a landslide, outside the party headquarters in New Delhi, India, Friday, May 16, 2014. Opposition leader Narendra Modi will be India’s next prime minister, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in more than a quarter century and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power, partial results showed Friday. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters dance to celebrate election results outside their party office in Bangalore, India, Friday, May 16, 2014. India’s opposition leader Narendra Modi and his party won national elections in a landslide Friday, preliminary results showed, driving the long-dominant Congress party out of power in the most commanding victory India has seen in more than a quarter century. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters write congratulatory messages for their leader Narendra Modi on a giant board at their party headquarters in New Delhi, India, Friday, May 16, 2014. Modi will be India’s next prime minister, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in more than a quarter century and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power, partial results showed Friday. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)

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NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s opposition leader, Narendra Modi, will become the next prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, winning the most decisive election victory the country has seen in three decades and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power.

Modi, a career politician whose campaign promised a revival of economic growth, will have a strong mandate to govern at a time of profound changes in Indian society. He also has said he wants to strengthen India’s strategic partnership with the United States. But critics worry the ascendance of his Hindu nationalist party could worsen sectarian tensions with India’s minority 138 million Muslims.

The results were a crushing defeat for the Congress party, which is deeply entwined with the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty that has been at the center of Indian politics for most of the country’s post-independence history. The party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals and a poor economy.

As his overwhelming win became clear Friday, Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and tried to strike a conciliatory note.

“I have always said that to govern the nation it is our responsibility to take everyone with us,” Modi said after a lengthy and punishing race. “I want your blessings so that we can run a government that carries everyone with it.”

Nevertheless, Modi remains a divisive figure in the country of 1.2 billion people, in large part because he, as chief minister of Gujarat state, was in command in 2002 when communal rioting there killed more than 1,000 people — most of them Muslims.

Modi was accused of doing little to stop the rampage, though he denies any wrongdoing and has never been charged with a crime. He was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 for alleged complicity in the riots, although as prime minister he would be virtually assured a visa.

On Friday, President Barack Obama sent Modi his congratulations, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said “the prime minister of India will be welcomed to the United States.”

“Once the government is formed, we look forward to working closely with the prime minister and the Cabinet to advance our strong bilateral relationship based on shared democratic values,” Carney said, adding that Obama looks forward to speaking with Modi.

The Obama administration had watched Modi’s rise carefully, and in February, for the first time in Modi’s decade-long tenure as the top official in Gujarat state, the U.S. ambassador met with him.

In India, the question now is whether Modi can be a truly secular leader in a country with many faiths. The Congress party tried to highlight the 2002 riots during the campaign, but Modi’s momentum — and laser focus on the ailing economy — carried him to victory.

By Friday evening, Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was winning in enough seats in the lower house of Parliament to exceed the 272-seat majority needed to create a government without

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