At least 16 dead in a fire at a lithium battery factory in South Korea

New Delhi: Indian lawmakers will begin their swearing-in at the opening of parliament on Monday after an election debacle put Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a coalition government for the first time in a decade.

The first meeting, which runs until July 3, is expected to outline Modi’s plans for a third term and the likely formal appointment of Rahul Gandhi as opposition leader, a post vacant since 2014.

Modi’s first two terms in office followed sweeping victories for the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), allowing his government to push legislation through parliament with only cursory debate.
But analysts expect Modi, 73, to tone down his Hindu-nationalist agenda to appease his coalition partners and focus instead on infrastructure, social welfare and economic reforms.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju called for a “peaceful and productive” session on Monday, but Indian media said they expected a lively debate with a much stronger opposition.
“All set,” read a Hindustan Times headline on Monday.

“Resurgent opposition prepares to pressure government,” added the front page of the Indian Express.

Rahul Gandhi, 54, defied analysts’ expectations to help his Congress party double its parliamentary strength, the best result since Modi came to power a decade ago.

Gandhi is the scion of a dynasty that has dominated Indian politics for decades and is the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, starting with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.

According to parliamentary regulations, the leader of the opposition must come from a party that controls at least 10 percent of the representatives in the 543-member lower house.

The post has been vacant for 10 years because the Congress, once India’s dominant party, failed to reach that threshold after two dismal election results.

The parliamentary session begins with the deposition of the newly elected representatives on the first two days.

Many will be watching to see if two elected lawmakers from behind bars, a bitter opponent of Modi, can join.

One is Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh, a fire preacher who was arrested last year after a month-long police manhunt in Punjab state.

The second is Sheikh Abdul Rashid, former state legislator of Indian-administered Kashmir.

It is unclear if either of them will be granted bail for attending the ceremony in person.

During his decade as prime minister, Modi cultivated an image as an aggressive champion of the country’s majority Hindu faith, which worried minorities, including the country’s Muslim community of more than 200 million.

But his BJP won just 240 seats in this year’s polls, 32 short of a majority in the lower house — its worst showing in a decade.

This makes the BJP dependent on the diversity of smaller parties for governance.

Modi has retained key posts in this government and the cabinet remains dominated by the BJP.

This includes BJP stalwarts Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman and S. Jaishankar — ministers for defence, home, transport, finance and external affairs who will remain in their jobs.

But 11 posts in his 71-member government were given to coalition allies who took them out in exchange for their support – including five of the top 30 cabinet posts.

Many people will also be watching the presidential election, which oversees the management of the lower house, and the representatives will vote on Wednesday.

Coalition allies covet the post, but others suggest Modi will field a candidate from the BJP.

Leave a Comment