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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Asia

PM-elect Modi holds talks on India's new right-wing govt

AFP | Sunday, May 18, 2014

Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and prime-minister elect Narendra Modi (R) talks with senior BJP leader and leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj during a meeting at the party headquarters in New Delhi on May 17, 2014.

NEW DELHI - Prime minister-elect Narendra Modi summoned senior figures from his Hindu nationalist party on Sunday for 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) after storming to power at 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 from the southern state of Karnataka, was among the first to meet Modi at Gujarat House in Delhi as rounds of negotiations for plum posts got under way, television footage showed.

"All kinds of people are meeting Modi," senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar told AFP declining to give details of the talks.

Modi, a popular but divisive figure, later met the party's elder statesman L.K. Advani at his Delhi residence after the pair fell 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 securing the strongest mandate of any Indian leader in 30 years.

Modi and his right-wing BJP trounced the left-leaning Congress, which has ruled India for most of the 60 years since India's independence, piling humiliation on the famous Gandhi family that dominates the party.

'Empowering India'

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 growing at the lowest level in a decade.

After his presidential-style campaign dominated the election, Modi reiterated Sunday 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 & to make India a Jagat (world) Guru once again," he said on his official Twitter account.

Modi has 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 wrongdoing and a court investigation found no case to prosecute.

On Sunday, top BJP leaders were also expected to meet in Delhi with the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu nationalist organisation seen as the ideological fountainhead of the BJP.

A senior BJP leader denied they would be taking orders from the RSS on who should be appointed to the new cabinet, saying the talks were part of many discussions 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 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 on Monday 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.

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