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He called himself India’s watchman, even as minorities said they felt unsafe under his gaze. He boasted of his humble origins while doing favors for billionaires. He spoke the language of business, yet could not deliver enough jobs to Indians aspiring to a better life.

Despite those contradictions, Narendra Modi, India’s incumbent prime minister, led his party to a stunning election victory on Thursday, eviscerating the opposition and giving Hindu nationalists the strongest hand they have held in modern Indian history.

His mix of brawny Hindu nationalism, populist humility and grand gestures for the poor — like building tens of millions of new toilets — helped him become the first prime minister in nearly 50 years to win a majority in successive parliamentary elections.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is the first Indian prime minister to lead his party to majorities in Parliament in back-to-back elections in nearly 50 years.CreditCreditAtul Loke/Getty Images

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