NEW DELHI, India – Prime minister-elect Narendra Modi headed to Delhi Saturday, May 17, to bask in the glory of an election landslide for his Hindu nationalists, promising to improve the lives of all Indians in spite of his polarizing image.
As world leaders congratulated the abrasive right-winger on his crushing victory over the leftist Congress party, Modi flew out of western Gujarat state that he has run since 2001 to prepare for a five-year term as prime minister.
The former tea-boy, whose humble background is a world away from that of the prevailing Delhi elite, is expected to be greeted by thousands of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters when he flies into the capital around 11 am (0530 GMT).
Later he is also expected to pay a visit to his constituency in the holy city of Varanasi where he will offer prayers at sundown on the banks of the river Ganges, after securing India's biggest electoral triumph in 30 years.
The 63-year-old, who has never held office at national level, pledged on Friday, May 16, to fulfill the dreams of all of India's 1.2 billion people in an effort to allay fears that still linger among Muslims who remember communal riots in Gujarat in 2002.
"I want to take all of you with me to take this country forward... it is my responsibility to take all of you with me to run this country," Modi said in what was effectively a farewell speech to Gujarat after a 13-year stint as its chief minister.
Reflecting his long-running theme that the world's second most populous country must make itself a force to be reckoned with, Modi also pledged "to make the 21st century India's century".
Modi is expected to be sworn in next week and then turn the country sharply to the right after a decade of rule by the center-left Congress party, which presided over a slowdown in growth and a series of corruption scandals. (READ: Indian PM calls to congratulate Modi on election victory)
He made good governance and development the main focus of his campaign, deriding his Congress rival Rahul Gandhi as a "princeling" who had little concept of the aspirations of the 551 million people who voted in the marathon six-week contest.
Rahul, whose mother led Congress to victory in 2004, fought a lackluster campaign that has cast doubt on his future and even his party's survival now the Gandhi family appears to have lost its magic.
Figures from the Election Commission showed the BJP had secured 279 seats and was projected to win another three in the 543-member parliament, the first majority by a single party for 30 years ago.
"People have gifted him the power to change history, to mould it in his image. He needs to handle this very carefully," editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta wrote on the front page of Saturday's Indian Express.
"This is no time for majority triumphalism and you cannot govern a nation as diverse as ours if so many of our minorities feel insecure, excluded and unrepresented."
The Times of India said the number of Muslims in parliament had fallen to its lowest level since 1952.
Thousands of BJP supporters are expected to turn out to welcome Modi to Delhi as he embarks on a victory parade. Similar roadshows during the campaign saw massive crowds shower the strict vegetarian with marigold flowers and rose petals.
He is then scheduled to attend a meeting of the party's top leaders at BJP headquarters, many of whom are expected to join his new cabinet.
Among those expected to attend Saturday's meeting is Arun Jaitley, tipped by many to become the new finance minister. Party president Rajnath Singh, seen as a potential interior minister, will chair the meeting.
Although the line-up of his government may not become clear for several days, its main task will be to fire up the economy, which has seen growth slide to less than 5% from 9% two years ago.
Business leaders have been among his most enthusiastic supporters and the Mumbai stock exchange has seen share prices soar over the last month.
His victory was likely greeted with less enthusiasm by Western governments who boycotted Modi for a decade in the aftermath of the 2002 riots that left more than 1,000 people – mainly Muslims – dead.
US President Barack Obama on Friday telephoned to invite him "to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time" and the White House confirmed that a former visa ban targeting him would be overturned.
Earlier British Prime Minister David Cameron rang Modi to invite him to London, while Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif hailed an "impressive victory".
There have been fears that a victory for Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP could signal bumpy times ahead for India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. – Rappler.com