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Emotional PM-elect Modi pledges to serve 'mother' India

AFP , Tuesday 20 May 2014
Narendra Modi (Photo:Reuters)
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India's prime minister-elect Narendra Modi, making his first visit to parliament since his election triumph, choked back tears Tuesday as he urged party colleagues to dedicate themselves to serving the nation.

The 63-year-old leader bowed and kissed the steps of the building as he entered for a meeting of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its political allies, which elected him as leader in the national parliament.

Speaking in the central hall of the complex in New Delhi, Modi had to hold back tears in a rare public display of emotion by the hardliner known to his supporters as the "Lion of Gujarat".

Other BJP figures could be seen weeping.

"I said this earlier and I say it again: that 125 crore (1.25 billion) Indians' hopes and aspirations are embedded in this temple of democracy," he said, later recalling his humble origins and the country's independence fighters.

He said "the common man has got renewed self-confidence and faith in democracy" after the victory last Friday by the BJP, which won the first overall majority by a single party since 1984.

"For rural areas, farmers, dalits (low castes), weak and the pained, this government is for them. To meet their aspirations and hopes, this is our responsibility because our weakest, poorest have sent us here," he said.

Modi broke down, having to pause and ask for a glass of water, while referring to his former mentor L.K. Advani and promising to serve the BJP and India as his "mother."

Modi, chief minister of the western state of Gujarat since 2001, has been locked in talks since Sunday about the composition of his cabinet which is expected to be sworn in next week.

He urged colleagues to show discipline and commit themselves to hard work.

"This joy, celebration will continue but this marks the beginning of the era of responsibility," he said.

Later Tuesday, he was expected to meet President Pranab Mukherjee to inform him of his intention to form an administration and then travel to Gujarat, where he will resign after 13 years in power.

The BJP, elected on promises to revive the economy, is expected to steer India sharply towards the right after a decade in power by the left-leaning Congress party, which has dominated India since independence in 1947.

The Indian Express newspaper reported Tuesday that Modi's office had already written to senior bureaucrats asking them to prepare presentations to explain their work and any problems they had encountered.

The new government is expected to focus initially on trying to remove bottlenecks that have seen many industrial and infrastructure projects stalled for lack of clearances.

The make-up of the new cabinet remains shrouded in secrecy, but reports suggest lawyer and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley is the frontrunner for the finance portfolio, while BJP president Rajnath Singh could get the home ministry.

While Modi prepared for government, the defeated Congress party held a meeting late Monday to rake over its electoral humiliation and leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi offered to resign.

Party colleagues refused to accept the resignations, saying they had faith in the political family that has provided three of India's prime ministers.

Sonia, the 67-year-old Congress president, entrusted election campaigning for the first time to her son and vice president Rahul. But his lacklustre performance failed to impress voters.

Congress slumped to its worst-ever result, winning just 44 seats -- about a quarter of its tally at the 2009 election when it secured a second term.


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