PM-elect Modi holds talks on new govt

2014-05-18 12:30
Indian supporters of Narendra Modi stand in line to get free t-shirts next to a giant banner showing an image of Modi at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi. (Roberto Schmidt, AFP)

Indian supporters of Narendra Modi stand in line to get free t-shirts next to a giant banner showing an image of Modi at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi. (Roberto Schmidt, AFP)

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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 senior 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, rallies 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.

BS Yeddyurappa, a BJP leader from the southern state of Karnataka, was among the first to meet Modi at Gujarat House in Delhi as negotiations got under way, television footage showed.

"All kinds of people are meeting Modi," senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar told AFP, refusing to give details on which of his colleagues were lobbying for plum posts.

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.

Enormous expectations

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

He 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.

Modi, a popular but divisive leader who staged a presidential-style campaign, reiterated on 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 nationalist 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 party 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 at RSS headquarters in New Delhi.

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