In Indian elections, it's the economy, stupid

An Indian rickshaw puller carries a load in New Delhi on May 1, 2014.

In India on Friday, Narendra Modi claimed victory as the country's next prime minister. It's a big win for his Bharatiya Janata party, which is expected to take control of Parliament.

India's long-ruling Congress party is out: it has been swept away, says Sruthijith KK, by a new wave of pro-business sentiment.

"The [Bharatiya Janata] used to profess a very different kind of economics early on," says KK, the New Delhi-based Indian editor for Quartz, "which focused on self-reliance and boycotting American products, but Modi has completely changed that economic philosophy. He has modeled himself off Reagan or Thatcher, and that is very reassuring to business men."

Modi's origin story is straight out of a Horatio Alger novel. Growing up he sold tea at railway stations to make ends meet. KK says his rise from obscurity is an inspiration for India's urban youth, fed up with a lack of jobs and stagnant economic growth.

"The changing demographics of India is precisely what has delivered a thumping victory to Modi... His pitch has been we need to get rid of Welfarism. Growth will pick people up from poverty."

In looking for a Prime Minister, KK notes that Indians put a premium on someone who could cut through the country's enormous amount of red tape.

"In Gujarat Modi showed he could make the bureaucracy work...the size of mandate that the people have now given him gives him so much stature that people expect he'll be able to push through things. He'll get the bureaucracy to deliver what needs to be done."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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