India’s Modi prays by Ganges on symbolic victory lap

VARANASI , May 17, 2014 (AFP) – Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi offered prayers by the river Ganges Saturday in a religious ceremony beamed live on television that underlined his Hindu nationalist roots a day after his stunning electoral triumph. The 63-year-old leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept through the capital earlier Saturday, where he was greeted by thousands of well-wishers who mobbed his car and showered him with rose petals.

The victory lap continued to the sacred city of Varanasi, from where he stood for parliament, ending on the banks of the Ganges which is revered by Hindus and is believed to cleanse sins.

As priests and onlookers chanted devotional songs, Modi prayed and lit a traditional oil lamp before climbing atop a flower-decked dais where he sat next to several senior BJP colleagues.

“Mother Ganges has decided my course. I will work under her guidance,” Modi told the crowd while thanking local residents who elected him by a crushing margin of 370,000 votes.

Among other election promises, including ideas to build a hundred new cities and high-speed rail network, he has said he will work to clean up the filthy river whose sacred status has not prevented rampant pollution.

The controversial