Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi declared on Thursday that his hat-trick of an election win held a national message and that he was serving "Mother India" besides his own state.
Addressing thousands of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters in his Maninagar constituency, the 62-year-old politician repeatedly appealed to the Gujarati pride of the voters but curiously chose to speak in Hindi.
The BJP's victory, he said, was "a victory for every Indian, whether they are in Assam or Kerala or Jammu and Kashmir".
Modi pointedly pretended not to hear the chorus in the gathering for his elevation as India's prime minister as the crowds chanted "PM, PM, PM, PM, PM..." towards the end of his speech.
Modi, however, ridiculed the Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh as well as political pundits who he said had failed to understand the pulse of the Gujarat electorate.
"Development won today," he thundered, repeatedly drawing cheers and wild clapping. "There was a thinking in our politics that good economics is bad politics. It was as if good governance did not suit our politics."
He quickly added that the people of the country too needed good governance and economic development of the kind seen in Gujarat.
"I seek your forgiveness if there has been drawbacks, mistakes (in my administration)," said Modi, who came to power in Gujarat in late 2001 and whose early reign was marked by the 2002 communal orgy.
"Give me your blessings so that we don't make any mistake (again)." And he added: "Even by mistake, we should not do any wrong to anyone."
After leading the BJP to a third-time win in assembly elections, Modi drove to his meet his aged mother and, surprisingly, his predecessor and political foe Keshubhai Patel -- whose feet he touched in reverence.
"I don't consider anyone my enemy in democracy," he said in his speech.
Besides defeating the Congress, Modi's sweeping win also punctured former BJP chief minister Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party which was left gasping with just two seats.
The chief minister made fun of critics who harped on his inability to bag a two-thirds majority or breach the 117 seat tally of 2007.
"Victory is victory... Even if we had won 93 seats, we would have taken our oath (of office)... But they (political pundits) are not interested in this simple arithmetic."
In an apparent response to media projections that Modi had grown taller than the BJP, he said: "The party is our mother. It is under her guidance that we grow. Whatever we are, it is because of the party. If there is no party, we are nowhere."
Modi said even as he was awaiting final election results, he listened to "senior pundits" on TV debates.
"I was stunned. They are not able to digest the Gujarat victory even now. I wonder if they will be able to sleep tonight!"
The BJP veteran said the people of Gujarat had risen above caste and other divides to give him another five-year mandate.
"I salute the voters of Gujarat for rejecting all greed and lies."