Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi fought back tears in an emotional first address to party colleagues in Parliament Tuesday, giving a message of hope and promising to live up to the expectations of the country’s 1.2 billion people, especially the poor.
His 30-minute speech also saw Modi display a rare emotional side that moved almost everyone present in the Central Hall.
Modi, who swept the BJP to power, touched his forehead to steps of the pink sandstone building in reverence before entering the Central Hall for a meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party. He was formally elected its leader, moving him a step closer to the country’s top job.
BJP patriarch LK Advani proposed Modi’s name, calling him a “popular and famous” leader. Party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi seconded the proposal.
As Advani walked up to his one-time protégé with a bouquet, Modi touched the 86-year-old leader’s feet who broke down and warmly embraced the PM-designate.
“I have a weakness..., I am prone to tears. I thank the party and Narendra Modi for doing the kripa (favour) of letting me witness an unforgettable moment in our history,” Advani, whose ties with Modi had strained in the run-up to the polls, said.
In his acceptance speech, Modi spoke with grace, humility and confidence and credited party seniors who “hoisted me on their shoulders” and millions of party workers for his tea-seller-to-PM journey.
He promised to be back in Parliament and present to the people his report card in 2019.
“I said this earlier and I say it again: that 125 crore (1.25 billion) Indians’ hopes and aspirations are embedded in this temple of democracy,” Modi said.
Paying rich tributes to party veterans, Modi struggled with tears as he remembered former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee. “Had Vajpayeeji been well, his presence would have been ‘sone par suhaga’ (icing on the cake),” Modi said, with Advani nodding in agreement.
Modi choked up and stopped his speech to drink water as he referred to Advani’s earlier comment.
“Like India, BJP is also my mother. Can serving the mother be a kripa (favour)? No,” he said. Some party MPs thumped their desks and many others had tears in their eyes.
“This election was about hope, not anti-incumbency,” Modi said, pledging his government to all sections of society; youth, women and poor in particular.
He promised to carry forward some of the programmes of the UPA and reassured allies that they were vital to him despite a decisive mandate for the BJP.
“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 during campaigning was often criticised for his pro-big business stance.
“Now, the era of responsibility begins,” he said.
Rajnath Singh said Modi had steered the country’s politics into a new phase: “It is now BJP versus the rest”.