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Modi begins third term with challenges ahead in consensuช อ ค เกอร์s-building

China, U.S. hold | ช อ ค เกอร์ | Updated: 2024-07-24 04:54:00

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (center, front) greets the audiences during his swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in New Delhi on Sunday. ADNAN ABIDI/REUTERS

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was sworn in on Sunday for a rare third consecutive term, will face challenges in building consensus at both home and abroad on contentious policy and political issues, analysts said.

President Droupadi Murmu administered the oath of office and secrecy to Modi and his council of 71 ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, in New Delhi. The heads of state of several neighboring countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, were among special guests at the impressive evening ceremony, which featured over 9,000 attendees.

"Honored to serve Bharat," Modi, 73, posted on social media platform X minutes before taking his oath. "Bharat" is a Sanskrit word derived from ancient Hindu scriptures and, according to the Constitution of India, is one of two official names of the country.

Modi is the only other Indian politician, after former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to be elected for a third term after completing the full tenure of each of his previous terms.

However, his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which saw landslide victories in 2014 and 2019 general elections, failed to secure a majority to govern on its own this time, although the National Democratic Alliance — a coalition of the BJP and other parties — won enough seats for a slim parliamentary majority.

The Lok Sabha, or the lower house of the Indian Parliament, has 543 seats and a party or coalition needs to win 272 seats to form a majority government. The BJP won 240 on its own, falling short of the magic number, but the coalition led by the party scored 293.The opposition grouping, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, won 234.

"To run the government, a majority is necessary. But to run the nation, a consensus is necessary. The people want us to deliver better than before," Modi told his coalition partners at a meeting on Friday.

Needing support from regional allies to maintain power means the Indian prime minister may have to adapt to a style of governance he has little experience with. Modi has always led governments with a majority, including when he was the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat between 2001 and 2014.

The important question is whether he can turn into a consensus-builder, which he has not been throughout his more than 24 years in public office, analysts said.

"Modi, as we know, is not used to building consensus. He may face challenges in keeping his allies together," said Tanvir Aeijaz, a professor of Ramjas College at the University of Delhi.

Modi's projection of Hindutva sentiments is expected to take a back seat this time, which means he may frustrate his core supporters, Aeijaz said, adding that one of the biggest challenges Modi will face is the constant demand for accountability from a now visibly strong opposition alliance, led by the Indian National Congress.

Swaran Singh, a professor of international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said a third term in office is the time when leaders become more conscious about their legacies, about how they will be remembered.

In the Modi 3.0 government, 30 lawmakers hold cabinet ranks, 36 are ministers of state and five have independent charge. As many as 11 lawmakers from the NDA coalition partners have been inducted into the government.

Modi convened the first council of ministers meeting on Monday evening, where he announced the key cabinet portfolios.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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