Victory: Modi (top left) addressing supporters from atop a decorated platform after performing a religious ritual with senior BJP leaders by the bank of the Ganges River in Varanasi. — AFP
NEW DELHI: Prime minister-elect Narendra Modi has started to summon senior figures from his Hindu nationalist party for a series of talks on building a new government that is set to steer India sharply to the right.
Modi was holding meetings in New Delhi with his closest aides as well as national and state leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yesterday after storming to power in the general elections with a strong mandate for economic reform.
A day after parties, street parades and religious ceremonies were staged around the country to celebrate the BJP’s landslide election victory, Modi was behind closed doors working on forming his new cabinet.
B.S. Yeddyurappa, a BJP leader hailing from the southern state of Karnataka, was among the first to meet Modi at the Gujarat House in Delhi as rounds of negotiations for plum posts got under way, according to television footage.
“All kinds of people are meeting Modi,” senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar told AFP, although he declined to give any details on the talks.
Modi, a popular but divisive political figure, later met with the party’s elder statesman L.K. Advani at his Delhi residence.
The meeting followed the pair’s falling out last year over Modi’s nomination as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Modi, a former tea boy who has governed his home state of Gujarat for the last 13 years, is expected to take office later this week after successfully securing the strongest mandate of any Indian leader in 30 years.
Modi along with his right-wing BJP soundly trounced the left-leaning Congress, which has ruled India for most of the 60 years since India’s independence.
The defeat piled much humiliation upon the famous Gandhi family that dominates the party.
Modi faces enormous expectations from tens of millions of voters after pledging to create jobs and increase development to revive the country’s stagnant economy, which is growing at the lowest level in a decade.
After his presidential-style campaign dominated the election, Modi reiterated yesterday his pledge to work with his BJP-led National Democratic Alliance coalition to make India a world leader “once again”.
“NDA is committed to creating new opportunities to empower the people of India and to make India a Jagat (world) Guru once again,” Modi said on his official Twitter account.
He has also toned down his Hindu rhetoric and pledged national unity amid warnings from opponents that he will alienate the country’s 150 million Muslims and other religious minorities once in power.
Modi is tainted by allegations that he failed to stop anti-Muslim riots on his watch in Gujarat that killed more than 1,000 people in 2002.
Modi has denied any wrongdoing on his part in the matter and a court investigation found no case to prosecute.
Yesterday, top BJP leaders were also expected to meet in Delhi with the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu nationalist organisation that is seen as the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.
A senior BJP leader denied that they would be taking orders from the RSS on who should be appointed to the new cabinet.
He added that the talks were simply part of many discussions that were under way.
“We come to the RSS headquarters and meet seniors.
“It is part of our life,” M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters as he arrived there.
The BJP secured 282 seats in the 543-member parliament – the biggest victory since 1984 – while Congress was left obliterated, holding just 44 seats – a quarter of its tally in 2009.
The glaring defeat raises questions about the endurance of the Gandhi political dynasty after 43-year-old Rahul, leading campaigning nationally for the first time, suffered such humiliating rejection.
Congress is holding a meeting today in Delhi in which the outcome and the future direction of the party are expected to be discussed.
Local media have speculated that Rahul and his mother, party president Sonia, will offer to resign. — AFP