Written by 3:59 pm In the News

Modi sworn in as Indian PM

Narendra Modi took the oath of office as Indian PM on Sunday evening, at the country’s presidential palace.
President Droupadi Murmu administered the oath of office to Modi at a grand ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi. The ceremony was attended by about 8,000 supporters and dignitaries, including the leaders of India’s neighbouring nations.
Forced into a coalition government, Modi faces the challenge of governing differently than he has so far, in two decades.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge attended the swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Modi’s party lost a third of its rural parliamentary constituencies in last month’s election, a voter analysis shows, reflecting discontent in the countryside over lack of jobs and high inflation. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s poor showing in the vast heartland cost the ruling party its majority in parliament, forcing Modi to depend on regional allies to muster the simple majority required to govern the world’s most populous country.
The BJP, which held 201 rural constituencies in the 543-member parliament, retained only 126 of them in the mammoth election, the analysis showed.
Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, mocked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his supporters for a decade as an entitled dynast, marked a stunning comeback on Tuesday, emerging at the centre of an alliance that made deep inroads into ruling party strongholds. The scion of India’s fabled Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, he embarked on two cross-country marches against what he called Modi’s politics of hate and fear, giving a jolt of enthusiasm to his Congress party and rehabilitating his own image. Though it might have to sit another term out of power, Congress will have the loudest voice in a much stronger opposition, with Gandhi at its centre.As the opposition’s most prominent face, Gandhi has  been a target of attacks from Modi and other BJP leaders, who often call him “the prince”. Gandhi’s father, grandmother and great-grandfather have all been prime ministers. During the campaign, Gandhi, with close-cropped black hair and a scruffy salt-and-pepper stubble, criss-crossed the country as his party’s main face, even though Congress is led by family loyalist Mallikarjun Kharge.
“I think Rahul Gandhi will get credit, not just for mobilisation, for his marches, but also for continuously clarifying the Congress’s ideological pitch against the BJP,” said Rahul Verma, political analyst at the Centre for Policy Research think tank in New Delhi. “If there was a moment when Gandhi really emerged, it is now,” he said.

Battle against hate

At a news conference on Tuesday, Gandhi pulled out a red-jacketed, pocket-sized version of the country’s constitution that he has referred to continuously during the campaign, and said his alliance’s performance was the “first step” in preventing Modi from attempting to change it. Changing the constitution requires a two-thirds in parliament.

Cambridge-educated Gandhi has often said that he is battling Modi’s BJP not just to wrest power, but to defeat the party’s and its parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Hindu-first character, which goes against India’s secular roots enshrined in the constitution.
“My fight is with the ideology of RSS and BJP which is a threat to our country. The hatred these people spread, they spread violence, I fight against it… This is the battle of my life for me,” he said at a party event two years ago.
Families in rural India, home to 60% of its 1.4 billion people, have seen incomes halve as they also struggle to keep up with rising costs and fewer jobs. Modi campaigned on his track record of rapid growth, government programmes to help the poor and muscular Hindu nationalism aimed at the party’s conservative base.
But the results showed the BJP ceding ground in the country’s 344 rural or semi-rural seats to the opposition that targeted employment, inflation and income disparity as core issues.

Mr Modi spoke about coalition politics: “Our alliance reflects the spirit of India and we are dedicated to upholding constitutional values. NDA is the most successful…”

His remarks were seen as acknowledgement of his reliance on allies – new territory after the BJP’s brute majorities in 2014 and 2019, which allowed it to form the government sans active support.

(Reuters; Picture Courtesy: AP)

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