24 May 2019

Auckland Indians celebrate Modi election victory

9:07 am on 24 May 2019

Modi supporters in Auckland say they're ecstatic about the leader's landslide victory back home.

Kamlesh Shah, Mrugank Trivedi and Swapnil Shah.

Kamlesh Shah, Mrugank Trivedi and Swapnil Shah, who has been driving around with a picture of Mr Modi on his car. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

It's been the largest democratic exercise in the world, with two thirds of its 900 million eligible voters turning out have their say.

About 50 people gathered in the Balmoral Community Hall in Auckland to watch the preliminary results, and while the viewing party had been advertised as something for supporters of all political parties there was only one name on their minds - Narendra Modi.

The popular 68-year-old Hindu nationalist has been up against a group of parties, including the main opposition Congress Party. He led his BJP party to a sweeping majority win at the last election in 2014, capturing 282 of the 542 lower-house constituencies.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses party supporters.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses party supporters. Photo: AP

This time around, the BJP is projected to get about 300 of the 543 seats in parliament and is certainly likely to take a larger share of the vote than the previous election.

Swapnil Shah and his father are long-time supporters of him - so much so that he has been driving around with a poster of the politician plastered on the window of his car for the last month.

"I stuck it inside because of the rain but today is one of the biggest days for our country so that's why I've now stuck it outside so everyone can see that we're supporting him [Modi] and following him," he said.

One supporter, Anu Chandra, said she regretted not being able to vote this time around because she is in New Zealand.

"Unfortunately my parents also didn't get to vote because I was pregnant and they came here [to look after me]," she said.

Anu Chandra and her father.

Anu Chandra and her father. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

"I feel very bad ... but that's why we've called everyone saying, 'vote for Modi, vote for Modi' and Facebook and everything."

So why are they so passionate about Modi?

"They've ... improved India's image all around the world," said one supporter.

Another supporter, Chaitira Shetty said she was seeing improvements every time she returned to India.

"Firstly in terms of infrastructure, there are more roads ... in terms of education, public transport, investment - he's got a lot of foreign investment into India," she said.

Opposition parties have been quick to criticise Mr Modi over unemployment and a lack of support for farmers struggling with low crop prices, but his supporters - at least those in Auckland - said the leader was doing what he could.

"He's fixing the problem, 70 years [worth] of problems cannot be fixed just in five years," said Jot Bisht.

"He needs at least 15 to 20 years to fix it ... and he's right on track."

As the night drew on, it was clear that Modi would have the chance to prove just that, and those gathered could not have been more pleased.

Jot Bisht and his daughter.

Jot Bisht and his daughter. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

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