India’s president invites Modi to head new coalition govt, swearing-in on Sunday

Published June 7, 2024
Indian President Droupadi Murmu (R) feeding curd to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate him after he was elected for his third term following the country’s general election, at the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, India, June 7. — AFP
Indian President Droupadi Murmu (R) feeding curd to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate him after he was elected for his third term following the country’s general election, at the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, India, June 7. — AFP
Indian President Droupadi Murmu (R) speaking with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he was elected for his third term following the country’s general election, at the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, India, June 7. — AFP
Indian President Droupadi Murmu (R) speaking with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he was elected for his third term following the country’s general election, at the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, India, June 7. — AFP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that President Droupadi Murmu had invited him to form a government, as he promised his new coalition of 15 parties would strive for unanimity and emerge successful.

Modi’s comments came after he met Murmu and accepted her invitation to head the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition government and run the world’s most populous nation for the next five years.

He said the new government would be sworn in on Sunday evening, which would make him prime minister for a historic third consecutive term.

“I want to assure the people of the country that in the 18th Lok Sabha (lower house) also … we will work with the same pace, same commitment to fulfil aspirations of the people,” he told reporters outside the president’s palace.

It is the first time in a decade that his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — which won majorities outright in 2014 and 2019 — has needed the support of regional parties to form the government, a shift that initially spooked markets and worries analysts about policy certainty and fiscal discipline.

The party, which had a handsome majority in the previous two terms, secured only 240 seats in the lower house of parliament, far short of the 272 needed to govern on its own.

The NDA won 293 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, and the INDIA alliance, led by Rahul Gandhi’s centrist Congress party won more than 230 to exceed forecasts.

“It is my good fortune that all of you from NDA have chosen me to lead,” Modi said earlier on Friday after NDA lawmakers voted for him to head their coalition.

“No alliance has ever been as successful as the NDA,” he said after lawmakers and senior leaders thumped tables and applauded, with some standing and chanting “Modi, Modi!” in the central hall of the old parliament building.

“We have won the majority … but to run the country it is unanimity that is crucial … we will strive for unanimity,” he said, in a sign of the change in style coalition government may force on a leader used to ruling with a strong hand.

The new government would, among others, focus on raising the savings of the middle class and improving the quality of their lives as the “middle class is the driving force of the country”, Modi added.

“It is with utmost humility that I accept the responsibility of leading the NDA to yet another term of development-oriented governance,” the premier said in a statement on social media platform X.

“I am grateful to our fellow NDA allies and MPs for their trust in me.”

NDA leaders vow to stick around

Key NDA leaders — whose support has wavered in the past as they hopped in and out of alliances — praised Modi and expressed confidence in his leadership.

“I am confident that whatever is left he will now complete it. We will be with him at every step,” said Nitish Kumar, chief minister of the eastern state of Bihar whose Janata Dal (United) party is the third largest in the NDA with 12 lawmakers.

Indian media said both Kumar’s party and the Telugu Desam Party, the second largest with 16 lawmakers, are eyeing the post of the speaker in the lower house, while BJP itself is expected to retain four key ministries — foreign affairs, defence, home and finance.

The Janata Dal (United) also wants the new government to review a military recruitment system introduced in 2022 under which young men and women are enlisted for a four-year tenure at non-officer ranks, with only a quarter retained for longer periods.

Previously, soldiers were recruited by the army, navy and air force separately and typically entered service for up to 17 years for the lowest ranks.

The shorter tenure caused concern among potential recruits and led to riots in some parts of the country as it was seen as hurting employment prospects.

A lack of jobs, besides rising prices and falling incomes, were key issues in the election and led voters to rein in support for Modi, according to a post-election survey.

The coalition negotiations are a throwback to an era before 2014 when Modi swept to power with an outright majority for his BJP.

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