December 21, 2014
India's Modi gives first speech after victory
Narendra Modi fought back tears in an emotional first address to his party in India's colonnaded parliament house today, after the Hindu nationalist swept to power in an election that has changed the face of politics in the country.
Modi will be India's next prime minister after leading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a historic victory in a ballot that ended on Friday. He is likely to take his oath of office to lead the world's biggest democracy on Monday.
The win handed the BJP its first parliamentary majority and reduced the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty's ruling Congress party to 44 seats, the lowest ever tally for a party that won India's independence and has ruled for most of the 67 years since.
Modi, 63, choked up and paused his speech to take a drink of water during his inaugural appearance in the round, colonial-era building.
He addressed BJP lawmakers filling more than half the seats of the lower house with uplifting words that commentators immediately contrasted with the often wooden addresses of his predecessor Manmohan Singh.
"It is proof of the strength of our Constitution that a man from a poor family is standing here today," said Modi, who sold tea on a railway platform as a child. For the past 12 years, he has governed the state of Gujarat.
"This government (will be) one which thinks of the poor, which listens to the poor, a government which lives for the people," said Modi, who kissed the steps of the pink sandstone parliament building before his speech.
His comments appeared designed to counter criticism that his record of business-focused government and fast economic growth in Gujarat did not do enough to lift people from poverty.
Congress has traditionally cast itself as India's champion of the poor and downtrodden.
Modi faces a huge task in meeting the sky-high expectations of India's 1.2 billion people, who hope he can drag the country from economic torpor, tackle corruption and cut red tape in order to create enough jobs for its burgeoning youth.
With thunderous applause and shouts of "Long live Modi!" the 282 BJP members, who make up a comfortable majority in the 543-seat house, officially chose him as their parliamentary leader, one of several formalities before he is sworn in.