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India's Modi sworn in for third term after election setback

New Delhi, India | June 10, 2024, Monday @ 07:11 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 1956
India's Modi sworn in for third term after election setback

India’s newly sworn-in Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) gestures to the gathering during the oath-taking ceremony at presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on June 9, 2024. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the oath of office on June 9, for a third term in power alongside coalition allies after his party failed to win a parliamentary majority. (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in on Sunday for a third term after worse-than-expected election results left him reliant on coalition partners to govern.

Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled outright for the past decade but failed to repeat its previous two landslide wins this time around, defying analysts' expectations and exit polls.

He was instead forced into quick-fire talks with coalition partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which guaranteed him the parliamentary numbers to govern.

His office said he would appoint a 71-member cabinet, including 11 NDA ally ministers, without adding further details. Modi's previous cabinet had 81 ministers.

Flanked by top BJP officials and party leaders of his coalition, Modi vowed in a ceremony marking his formal assumption of power to "bear true allegiance" to the constitution.

Honour guards lined the steps of the presidential palace where thousands gathered to watch Modi, dressed in a flowing white kurta shirt and blue waistcoat, take the oath.

- Attack in Kashmir -

The cheering crowd also included adoring BJP loyalists, as well as celebrities such as Bollywood legend Shahrukh Khan and billionaire tycoons Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, key Modi allies.

South Asian leaders from neighbouring Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka attended the ceremony, however neighbouring rivals China and Pakistan did not.

But celebrations were overshadowed after police said gunmen had ambushed a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims in Indian-administered Kashmir shortly before the ceremony began.

The bus then tumbled into a ravine killing at least nine people.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, and both claim the high-altitude territory in full.

Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan, but violence fell drastically after 2019, when Modi's government cancelled the region's limited autonomy.

- Allies eye top posts -

Larger coalition parties have demanded hefty concessions in exchange for their support.

With Modi yet to announce details of his cabinet, the line of lawmakers also taking the oath of office was keenly watched.

Indian media reported widely that the top jobs, including the four most powerful posts, would remain in the BJP's grip.

Modi was followed immediately by top BJP aides Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and Nitin Gadkari -- the defence, interior and transport ministers in his last government respectively.

The first among the BJP's coalition members was H.D. Kumaraswamy from the Janata Dal (Secular) party.

Other coalition leaders to take the oath included Ram Mohan Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the largest BJP ally with 16 seats, and which India media reports has extracted four cabinet positions.

Rajiv Ranjan Singh also took the oath, from the BJP's next biggest ally the Janata Dal (United) with 12 seats, which has reportedly two minister posts.

- 'More consultation' -

But analysts said that the coalition will shift parliamentary politics and force Modi's once domineering BJP into a more conciliatory approach.

"In the past, the BJP has had confidence because of its sheer majority," said Sajjan Kumar, head of the Delhi-based political research group PRACCIS.

"The coalition will now force the BJP to engage in more consultation."

Political analyst Zoya Hasan of Jawaharlal Nehru University told AFP that Modi faced potential challenges ahead -- warning he may be "meeting his match" in the "crafty politicians" of among his coalition allies.

At the same time, Modi's chief rival Rahul Gandhi was nominated on Saturday to lead India's opposition in parliament, after he defied analysts' forecasts to help the Congress party nearly double its parliamentary numbers.

It was Congress's best result since Modi was swept to power a decade ago, rescuing the party from the political wilderness.

Gandhi is the scion of the dynasty that dominated Indian politics for decades and is the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.

© Agence France-Presse

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