Modi to be sworn in alongside coalition allies in India

Larger coalition parties demand significant concessions for their support

AFP June 09, 2024
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures, at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi, India, June 4. PHOTO: REUTERS


India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to be sworn in on Sunday for a third term after election results fell short of expectations, leaving him reliant on coalition partners to govern.

With Modi yet to announce his cabinet, the ceremony at the presidential palace on Sunday evening (13:45 GMT) will be closely watched as approximately 30 ministers-to-be also take the oath.

Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had ruled outright for the past decade but failed to secure another landslide victory, defying analysts' expectations and exit polls.

This outcome forced Modi into rapid negotiations with the 15-member coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), to secure the parliamentary numbers needed to govern.

Larger coalition parties have demanded significant concessions for their support.

The Hindustan Times described the negotiations as "hectic talks," while the Times of India reported the BJP's efforts to "pare down" their partners' demands.

Reports indicate that the Telgu Desam Party (TDP), the largest BJP ally with 16 seats, has secured four cabinet positions. The second-largest party, the Janata Dal (United) with 12 seats, has negotiated two.

Modi's previous cabinet had 81 ministers.

However, Indian media widely reported that the top ministries—including interior, foreign, finance, and defence—would remain under BJP control.

"Key ministries like home, defence, finance, and external affairs are off-limits," the Times of India stated, suggesting that top Modi aides Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, and Nitin Gadkari (interior, defence, and transport ministers, respectively) will be part of the new team.

Analysts believe the coalition will shift parliamentary politics and force Modi's previously dominant BJP to adopt 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."

Zoya Hasan of Jawaharlal Nehru University warned that Modi might face challenges ahead, particularly from the "crafty politicians" of the TDP's Chandrababu Naidu and JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar.

Security was tight in New Delhi on Sunday, with thousands of troops and police deployed as regional leaders arrived for the ceremony. Attendees include Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, as well as leaders from Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives. Notably absent are top leaders from neighboring rivals China and Pakistan.

On Sunday, Modi paid respects at the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and the national war memorial.

Modi's chief rival, Rahul Gandhi, was nominated on Saturday to lead India's opposition in parliament. He defied analysts' forecasts, helping the Congress party nearly double its parliamentary numbers.

This marks Congress's best result since Modi took power a decade ago, rescuing the party from political obscurity. A meeting of the Congress leadership on Saturday unanimously recommended Gandhi's election as India's official opposition leader, a position vacant since 2014.

Gandhi, a scion of a political dynasty, is expected to be recognized as the official opposition leader when the new parliament convenes, which local media suggests could be as early as next week.

Parliamentary regulations require the opposition leader to come from a party commanding at least 10 percent of the lawmakers in the 543-seat lower house. The post has been vacant for 10 years due to Congress's poor election results, which left it below that threshold.


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