Narendra Modi sworn in for second term as India’s Prime Minister
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was formally sworn in Thursday for a second straight term in office, following a landslide victory in national elections that cemented his grip on power in the world’s largest democracy.
Modi, his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their allies won a total of 349 seats out of 545 in the Parliament’s lower house earlier this month. The resounding win followed a seven-week long election that saw the Prime Minister adopt an increasingly nationalist posture — a marked departure from the focus on economic reform during his first campaign back in 2014.
The result defied even the most optimistic predictions by BJP supporters. Modi is the first Indian leader since the 1970s to secure a second straight term with a clear parliamentary majority.
He took his oath of office for the second time at New Delhi’s imposing Presidential Palace, known here as the Rashtrapati Bhavan, along with several members of his new council of ministers.
Modi’s new team includes Amit Shah, his closest political ally and the BJP party president credited with engineering the party’s electoral wins, who makes a formal entry into government with his appointment as a minister.
The government hasn’t yet announced which specific portfolios will be held by each minister.
Another new entrant, S Jaishankar, a former top civil servant in India’s foreign ministry, was also sworn in as a minister.
One of the highest profile names that will be missing from the new government is Arun Jaitley, who was finance minister in Modi’s first term, but bowed out of office owing to health reasons.
In a letter to Modi earlier this week, Jaitley said, “I am writing to you to formally request you that I should be allowed a reasonable time for myself, my treatment and my health and, therefore, not be a part of any responsibility, for the present, in the new government.”
The finance ministry has been a focus of attention ever since Modi’s first campaign for Prime Minister in 2014, when he promised to reform India’s economy to help generate more jobs and boost growth.
Modi’s latest election campaign was dogged with questions on his government’s poor economic performance and the agrarian crisis that has been unfolding across the country.
Analysts say economic policy will be an important area to watch as Modi begins his new term, after a campaign dominated by talk of Hindu nationalism that made many minorities and secular liberals nervous.
“On one hand, I do believe they are likely committed to turning around the macroeconomic indicators in this country, but on the other hand can they resist the populist tendencies that naturally comes with this kind of mandate and the electoral pressures that exist?” said Neelanjan Sircar, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research.
“It is very hard for a government to do something that is not electorally popular and paradoxically when you have a mandate like this it is even harder,” he added.
The BJP picked up 303 seats in the elections, a jump from 282 five years ago.
The principal opposition Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi, which suffered its worst-ever defeat in 2014, only marginally improved its strength in parliament, raising questions about the leadership of what was once seen as the natural party of government.