Indian PM-designate gets warm welcome

By Mubasshir Mushtaq, Saturday, May 17, 2014

Incoming Prime Minister Modi is congratulated by Pakistan and Bangladesh

Incoming Prime Minister Modi is congratulated by Pakistan and Bangladesh

NEW DELHI - Waving party flags and chanting 'Modi,' hundreds of thousands of India's Bharatiya Janata Party supporters greeted Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi on Saturday as he reached Delhi airport leading the "victory march" to the party headquarters a day after his massive win against India’s ruling Congress party.

Wearing a blue jacket, Modi waved to the crowds outside the party headquarters flashing a victory sign. He made a brief speech thanking the voters for the party's historic win.

Modi said the party victory signified the end of "dynastic" politics, as much of post-independence India has seen the dominance of powerful Nehru-Gandhi family of the Congress.

Modi held a meeting of the party's parliamentary board reportedly to discuss the allotment of key portfolios ahead of his swearing-in ceremony likely to take place in a couple of days.

The outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has headed a Congress-led coalition government since 2004, made a farewell speech live on the national television.

"My life and tenure in public office is an open book. I have always tried to do my best in serving this great nation of ours," he said.

Singh, an economist-politician credited with opening the gates of Indian economy to foreign investors in 1991 as country’s finance minister, told the nation to respect the judgment of the court of the people in the just concluded elections.  

"The just concluded elections have deepened the foundations of our democratic polity," he said.

Singh said that the country has seen many accomplishments in the last ten years of his rule.

"Today, India is a far stronger country in every respect than it was a decade ago. I give credit for these successes to all of you," he said.

He wished the incoming Modi-led government "every success."

"I firmly believe that the emergence of India as a major powerhouse of the evolving global economy is an idea whose time has come. Blending tradition with modernity and unity with diversity, this nation of ours can show the way forward to the world," he said.

Later on Saturday, Modi will attend a prayer meet in the city of Varanasi on the banks of the holy Ganges River, from where he has been elected.

Meanwhile, a flurry of messages kept pouring in from top world leaders congratulating the new PM-designate.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif telephoned Modi on Friday and congratulated the incoming PM. Sharif invited him for a visit to Pakistan and said his country was willing to work with the Bharatiya Janata Party government for resolution of all the issues between the two countries.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition chief Khaleda Zia were the first international leaders to congratulate Modi on Friday as it became clear that the right-wing party would emerge victorious.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a late night call on Friday, also congratulated Modi, with whom the White House has shared an uneasy relationship after refusal of Modi’s visa in 2005 for his alleged complicity in 2002 Gujarat riots. The U.S. ended its long boycott of Modi in February when the U.S. ambassador met him at his official residence.

Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party won 282 seats, the single-biggest number in almost three decades for a party, out of 543 in India’s lower house of parliament, signifying the end of coalition politics. The Congress party faced its worst defeat in its 129-year-old history.

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