Modi sworn in for third term; a dozen ministries for allies

Published June 10, 2024
INDIAN President Droupadi Murmu administers the oath to Narendra Modi as he becomes the prime minister for a third term, on Sunday.—AFP
INDIAN President Droupadi Murmu administers the oath to Narendra Modi as he becomes the prime minister for a third term, on Sunday.—AFP

NEW DELHI: India’s 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.

His office said he would appoint a 71-member cabinet, including 11 National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally ministers.

Modi’s Hindu-natio­nalist BJP ruled outright for the past decade but failed to repeat its previous two landslide wins this time around, defying exit polls. He was instead forced into quick-fire talks with the 15-member coalition NDA, which guaranteed him the parliamentary numbers to govern.

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 of India”.

Size of his new cabinet expected to be smaller than the last time

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

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

But with Modi yet to announce details of his cabinet, the line of lawm­a­­kers also taking the oath of office was keenly wat­ched as an indication of who will be in government.

Larger coalition parties have demanded hefty concessions in exchange for their support. Other coalition leaders to take the oath included Ram Mohan Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, the largest BJP ally with 16 seats, and which media reports has extra­cted four cabinet seats.

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.

Indian media reported widely that the top jobs including the four most powerful posts of the interior, foreign, finance and defence would remain in BJP’s control. The Hindus­tan Times described days of “hectic talks”, while the Times of India said the BJP had sought to “pare down” their partners’ demands.

Modi’s previous cabinet had 81 ministers.

‘More consultation’

But analysts said that the coalition would shift parliamentary politics and force Modi’s once domineering BJP into a somewhat 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 said Modi faced potential challenges ahead, warning he may be “meeting his match” in the “crafty politicians” of the TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu and JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2024

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