NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s Hindu nationalist party formally chose Narendra Modi as the country’s next prime minister on Tuesday, just days after its resounding victory in national elections.
President Pranab Mukherjee set next Monday as the date of Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.
“Congratulations,” Mukherjee said as he greeted Modi with a bouquet of flowers in the president’s palace.
Earlier Tuesday, Modi bent and kissed the steps of India’s Parliament, where he met the newly elected lawmakers of his Bharatiya Janata Party. Lal Krishna Advani, the most senior party leader, nominated Modi for the prime minister’s post, and the lawmakers gave their approval by thumping their desks and chanting slogans.
BJP President Rajnath Singh called the occasion historic, because it was the first time that an opposition party won a majority on its own in India’s 543-seat Lok Sabha — the more powerful lower house of Parliament.
The BJP won 282 seats, far more than most analysts had predicted, and the incumbent Congress party just 44 seats.
Modi said in a speech that the people of India had given him a large responsibility to meet their aspirations and hopes. “I am dedicating my election to the uplift of the poor, youth and women,” he said.
Modi fought back tears as he thanked his party colleagues and supporters for their trust.
Modi, 63, worked relentlessly to market himself as the leader most capable of waking the nation of 1.2 billion from its economic slumber, while trying to shake off allegations that he looked the other way during communal riots that killed 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his home state of Gujarat in 2002. Modi has served as the state’s top elected official since 2001.
In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Modi and his party on its “resounding” election victory and said the U.S. stands ready to work with the new prime minster and government.
“The friendship between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy is absolutely vital, and the United States is deeply invested in our strategic relationship,” Kerry said in a statement Tuesday.
President Barack Obama has already invited Modi to visit the United States, offering a fresh start to a relationship bruised by a decision years ago not to let Modi into the U.S. because of the Gujarat riots.
India is in the midst of rapid socio-economic change. About 13 million young people are entering the job market each year, but not enough jobs are being created in an economy that has slowed down to below 5 percent in the last two years. Prices of food have spiraled, as has unemployment.
The BJP trounced the Congress-led ruling alliance, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government plagued by repeated corruption scandals while the party’s 43-year-old vice president, Rahul Gandhi, failed to inspire confidence.
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