‘The lion returns’ — Modi fans paint the town saffron


NEW DELHI, May 23, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Delirious supporters of India’s ruling
party banged drums and smothered each other in saffron paint as they
celebrated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in the country’s
giant election.

Across India, supporters of Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and
the opposition Congress party were both stunned by the size of the Hindu
nationalist leader’s triumph, with early counts indicating a thumping
majority for the BJP.

The normally austere BJP headquarters in Delhi turned into a raucous
circus of drummers, firecrackers, dancing and singing with thousands of
supporters filling the yard and nearby streets.

Armed police stood guard and special commandos watched from vantage
positions, as devotees rode horses in the streets while a half-mile long
firecracker was lit, sending a huge cloud of smoke into Delhi’s polluted

Some carried effigies of Modi bearing the slogan “singham returns” (the
lion returns).

Across town, the Congress main office was a near ghost town. Most
activists left by midday as it became apparent that Rahul Gandhi’s party had
suffered a severe drubbing.

Only a handful of dejected supporters sat in groups under trees, seeking
to escape Delhi’s blistering sun.

The result was unexpected, said a Congress spokesperson Salman Soz. “We
have to go back to the drawing board and see what went wrong.”

– ‘Time for a Hindu nation’ –

Modi was showered with rose petals when he arrived at the party
headquarters as rain started to fall.

He is expected to hold a victory parade in the holy city of Varanasi which
he represents in parliament.

The city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was part of a Hindu
nationalist wave that swept Modi to power in 2014.

Five years on, BJP supporters told AFP their enthusiasm for the leader had
only increased.

“In the past five years Modi has raised India’s prestige globally wherever
he has travelled,” said 48-year-old Deepak Jadhav in the financial capital,

“Modi in five years will take India to newer heights that people could not
imagine,” he added.

Across the country, at the BJP’s offices in the northeastern city of
Guwahati, wild celebrations erupted, with people smearing paint on each other
in scenes resembling the Hindu festival of Holi. Thousands of men and women
danced to songs devoted to the prime minister including “Akou Abar Modi
Sarkar” (“Once Again a Modi Government”).

Similar scenes were repeated in other major cities, with supporters
calling for India — officially a secular country — to become a “Hindu

“Modi will make India great again. Modi is the strongest prime minister
India has ever had and will get,” said Santosh Joshi in Delhi.

Huge crowds gathered in Delhi, waving BJP flags and Hindu banners and
chanting slogans.

“The saffron flag has taken over, time for a Hindu nation” one old man
screamed on a handheld megaphone.

Another supporter named Vishal Sharma told AFP, “We have shown the world
that India is a great country”.

“There will be no place for anti-nationals in the country. Nothing against
the country will be tolerated.”