NEW DELHI: Prime minister-elect Narendra Modi summoned senior figures from his Hindu nationalist party on Sunday for talks on forming a new government that is set to steer India sharply to the right.
Modi was holding meetings in New Delhi with aides, advisers and state and national leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after storming to power at the general election with a strong mandate for economic reform.
A day after jubilant parties, street parades and religious ceremonies were held around the country to celebrate the BJP’s landslide election victory, Modi was behind closed doors working to form his cabinet.
“All kinds of people are meeting Modi,” senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar told AFP, declining to reveal who were frontrunners for the finance, foreign, defence and other key portfolios. 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. 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 nationalist rhetoric and promised unity amid predictions from opponents that he will alienate the country’s 150 million Muslims and other religious minorities once in power.
On Sunday Modi met the party’s elder statesman LK Advani, with whom he fell out last year, at his Delhi residence to brief him on the latest stage of the negotiations, according to local media. Modi’s most trusted aide Amit Shah, who steered the BJP’s thunderous victory in the critical state of Uttar Pradesh, is tipped to become his boss’s enforcer with a top post in the Prime Minister’s Office. Successful lawyer Arun Jaitley, a member of the upper house, has been widely tipped to become finance minister. BJP president Rajnath Singh, a past federal government minister, could also be tapped for a key ministry.
Sushma Swaraj, who led the opposition in the lower house in recent years and is the BJP’s most senior woman leader, is also expected to receive a key cabinet position, although she is not close to Modi. Top BJP leaders were also meeting 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.
“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. Congress was devastated, holding just 44 seats — a quarter of its tally at the 2009 election.
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