Brash On The Campaign Trail, Modi Steps Into Parliament Humble

Narendra Modi made his maiden visit to the halls of India's parliament Tuesday, shortly after being unanimously voted his party's leader. Then, he was off to the presidential palace to receive the invitation to form a government.

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Narendra Modi will be sworn in Monday as India's next prime minister. Today, the country's president invited him to form a new government. And Modi thanked his Hindu nationalist party for unanimously naming him as their parliamentary leader.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reports his speech was filled with emotion and some surprise.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Often brash and boasting on the campaign trail, Modi was all humility today as he stood in the history-laden Central Hall of Parliament and sized up the significance of the moment

PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: (Foreign language spoken)

(APPLAUSE)

MCCARTHY: A person from a poor family is standing before you, he told the assembled BJP Party listening in rapt attention. The power of democracy, he said, has given power to the most ordinary person.

Modi defeated the long-serving Congress Party of the Nehru/Gandhi dynasty. For many Indians, the family has become out of touch, cocooned in the perks of power. Modi himself was accused of being in the clutches of India's corporate Titans, who had flourished in his home state of Gujarat where he was chief minister. Allegations rang about crony capitalism, but Modi suggested today that his only cronies would be the poorest of the poor.

MODI: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: After all, who is the government for, he asked? There should be a government that thinks about the poor, hears the poor, lives for the poor. Members thumped their desks in approval as Modi went on: Villages, farmers, the lowest castes, the marginalized, mothers and women looking for respect, this is our priority, he said.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCARTHY: Modi had been taken to task for running a Modi-centric campaign. But today, a milder Modi emerged expressing gratitude to those who enabled his climb to the pinnacle of Indian politics. At one point, he stopped, briefly choking back tears. The Hindu nationalist dogged by charges that he was divisive, declared he would work not for himself but the entire nation.

Julie McCarthy NPR News, New Delhi

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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