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Fri, 16 May 2014 19:52:46 +0000
(NEW DELHI) -- Narendra Modi is poised to become India's next prime minister after a record turnout in the country's elections.
The opposition leader and his Hindu nationalist party have swept through most of the country, winning in a landslide.
The elections were a massive spectacle, with voting staggered over six weeks. In all, more than 530 million people -- or 66 percent of all eligible voters -- cast a ballot.
Modi says he'll focus on jobs, infrastructure, technology and the economy. But he comes with a controversial past.
In 2002, while Modi was the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, religious rioting broke out between Hindus and Muslims that left more than 1,000 dead.
Critics have longed accused Modi of complicity, saying he not only allowed the riots to take place, but that his administration actively helped clear the area of Muslim homes and businesses.
In response, in 2005, the U.S. State Department slapped a travel ban on him, barring him from entering the United States. That travel ban existed until Friday, when White House press secretary Jay Carney said, "The prime minister of India will be welcomed to the United States."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki later added in a statement, "As Head of Government, Mr. Modi would be eligible for an A-1 visa."
President Obama called Modi on Friday to congratulate him on his party’s victory in the elections.
"The President noted he looks forward to working closely with Mr. Modi to fulfill the extraordinary promise of the U.S.-India strategic partnership, and they agreed to continue expanding and deepening the wide-ranging cooperation between our two democracies," read a readout of the call from the White House.
"The President invited Narendra Modi to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship," it added.
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