BJP's victorious Narendra Modi makes triumphal entry to New Delhi

Thousands in capital hail next prime minister, but editorials say minorities still distrust him

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 6:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2014, 9:35am

Thousands of Indians thronged the leafy streets of New Delhi yesterday to greet Narendra Modi's triumphant march into the capital after he decimated the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the ruling Congress party in the biggest election victory the country has seen in 30 years.

A Hindu nationalist who critics fear will be divisive and autocratic, Modi toned down religious issues in his pitch to India's 815 million voters and won the world's biggest ever election with promises of economic development for all.

Indian newspapers urged the prime minister-elect to reach out to Muslims and avoid the temptation of triumphalism.

The Hindustan Times said it was vital that what it called the "bad eggs in the party do not make overtly triumphal remarks about any community".

An editorial in The Hindu said: "The reality remains that there is a huge trust deficit with the minorities, especially the Muslim community, which must be addressed.

"He is still regarded as a deeply polarising figure not really reaching out to minorities."

While Modi said in a speech on Friday that he would ensure that he governed on behalf of all of India's 1.2 billion people, The Times of India pointed out that the new Parliament would contain just 24 Muslim lawmakers, the lowest number since 1952.

The three-times chief minister of the western state of Gujarat state is an outsider to Delhi's power circle.

Modi leaned far out of his car, waving a victory sign to jubilant supporters, in a drive from the New Delhi airport to the headquarters of his Bharatiya Janata Party in the centre of the city.

Describing himself as a "worker", he hailed grass-roots campaigners who showered him with pink rose petals as he arrived at party headquarters. There he met other party leaders and was expected to start discussions about forming a cabinet. Modi will not formally take office until after Tuesday, the party said.

Modi's landslide win gives him ample room to advance reforms started 23 years ago by current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but which have stalled.

Despite his party's pasting, Singh, 81, was magnanimous in his final address to the nation yesterday, wishing the incoming government success.

"I am confident about the future of India," he said. "I firmly believe that the emergence of India as a major powerhouse of the evolving global economy is an idea whose time has come."

US President Barack Obama congratulated Modi on his election victory and invited him to the White House, even though he was barred from the country less than 10 years ago over massacres of Muslims.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse