India's Hindu nationalist party chooses Narendra Modi as next PM

New PM to be sworn in May 26

NEW DELHI — India’s president on Tuesday invited opposition Hindu nationalist party leader Narendra Modi to form a new government and set next Monday as his swearing-in date.

Modi met with President Pranab Mukherjee after he was formally chosen by his party as the next prime minister, just days after a resounding victory in national elections.

“The president has given me a letter for swearing-in on May 26,” Modi told reporters.

“Congratulations,” said Mukherjee, 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 desks and raising slogans.

BJP President Rajnath Singh described the occasion as historic, because an opposition party has won a majority on its own for the first time in India’s 543-seat Lok Sabha — the more powerful lower house of Parliament.

The BJP won 282 seats, far more than most analysts predicted, and the incumbent Congress party just 44 seats.

In his speech, Modi said that people of India have put a big responsibility on him to meet their aspirations and hope. “I am dedicating my election to the uplift of the poor, youth and women,” he said.

Modi broke down and fought tears as he thanked his party colleagues and supporters for their trust.

The 63-year-old worked relentlessly to market himself as the one leader capable of waking this nation of 1.2 billion from its economic slumber, while trying to shake off allegations that he looked the other way amid communal riots in his home Gujarat state in 2002 that killed 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Modi has served as the state’s top elected official since 2001.

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 per cent in the last two years. Prices of food have spiraled, as has unemployment.

The Congress-led ruling alliance was trounced, 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.