India’s Modi swears in as PM for a third term but faces coalition challenges

NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) – Narendra Modi has been sworn in for a third term as India’s Prime Minister on Sunday. This comes after a shocking poll result that will test the ability of his coalition government to provide policy certainty.

At a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President’s Palace in New Delhi, thousands of dignitaries attended, including leaders from seven countries of the region, Bollywood stars, and industrialists.

Modi wrote on X minutes before he took the oath of office, “I am honored to serve Bharat,” referring to India in Indian languages.

As the 73 year old leader dressed in a blue and white half-jacket and kurta was called up to take the oath, supporters cheered and clapped.

Modi was then followed by several senior ministers from the previous government, including Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah. After the swearing-in, their portfolios will be announced.

Modi is the only person, after JawaharlalNehru who served a third consecutive term as Prime Minister. Modi began as a publicist for the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Modi won his third term with 14 regional parties supporting his BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, unlike his previous two terms where his party had an outright majority.

Surveys and exit polls predicted that BJP would win even more seats in 2019 than they did.

COALITION CHALLENGES

Modi’s growth was world-beating and India’s international standing improved, but he appeared to have missed the mark at home. Voters were prompted to rein him in by a lack enough jobs, high costs, low incomes, and religious faultlines.

Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, a western state, from 2001 until 2014. The BJP had strong majorities at the time, allowing Modi to govern with decisiveness.

Analysts say that Modi’s second term as Prime Minister will be difficult to build consensus over contentious policy and political issues, given the different interests of regional party leaders and a stronger opponent.

Analysts worry that the fiscal stability of the fastest-growing economy in the world could be impacted by demands for more development funds from states ruled by NDA regional partners, and a possible push to increase welfare spending by BJP in order to win back the voters they lost in the election this year.

Samiran Chhakraborty is the Chief Economist for India at Citi Research. He said that while “contentious reforms” could be delayed, there could still be a focus on infrastructure, manufacturing, and technology.

The BJP’s main coalition partners are unpredictable in their political behavior. They sometimes work with the BJP and other times against it, said Rick Rossow, Chair of U.S. India Policy Studies at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said that the larger parties who will form his coalition were largely agnostic about national-level matters and shouldn’t be slowing down economic reforms, or security ties, with the United States, Japan and other key partners.

Modi’s election campaign, which was marked by religious rhetoric, and criticism of the opposing party for allegedly favoring India’s 200 millions minorities Muslims, has taken on a more conciliatory ton since the shocking result.

He said, “We won the majority… but for us to run the country, it’s unanimity which is important… We will strive for unanimity.”

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