NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Hindu nationalist party on Tuesday started putting together a new government by formally choosing Narendra Modi as prime minister following a resounding victory in national elections.
Modi is scheduled to meet India's President Pranab Mukherjee later Tuesday as the next step in forming the government. The Bharatiya Janata Party will then announce the date when Modi will be sworn in.
Modi bent and kissed the steps of India's Parliament in a mark of respect as he arrived for a meeting of the party's newly elected lawmakers. Lal Krishna Advani, the most senior party leader, suggested Modi's name 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 state in 2002 that killed 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
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 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.