Surjit Bhalla, an Indian economist, has written to me that India's is "the most momentous election in world history". I disagree: the elections of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were more significant. But the idea is not absurd. India's population is 1.27 billion. Soon it will overtake China as the most populous country. If the election of Narendra Modi were to transform India, it would transform the world.
It is already possible to identify at least three ways in which the election is remarkable.
First, India has shown yet again the signal virtue of democracy: the peaceful transfer of legitimate power. That this is possible in such a vast, diverse and poor country is an inspiring political achievement.
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Second, Indians have rejected the dynastic politics of the Congress party, which, alas, brought to a sad end the distinguished public service of Manmohan Singh, a man I have known and admired for four decades. The most important Congress-led government since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru was that of Narasimha Rao in the early 1990s, under whom Mr Singh served as reforming finance minister. If Mr Modi succeeds, it will be because he builds on that foundation. Congress still has the best chance of being the strong secular party India needs, but only if it liberates itself from its dependence on the Gandhi family.
Third, Mr Modi truly is a self-made man. Even though his party won just 31 per cent of the vote, he has gained an overwhelming majority in the lower house. He has done so by promising to spread the perceived successes of Gujarat to the rest of the country. There is debate in India over whether Gujarat is the model it is alleged to be. Yet that is not the main point. What matters more is that Indians have chosen a man who promises to improve their lives. He is not chosen for his origins. That is testimony to India's transformation over the past quarter of a century.