Modi Sworn In as India Prime Minister After Election Setback

(Bloomberg) -- Narendra Modi was sworn in as India’s prime minister for a third straight term on Sunday, extending his leadership for another five years after a bruising electoral setback that forced him to share power for the first time.

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Modi was sworn in at a ceremony at the president’s residence in central New Delhi before as many as 8,000 guests, including leaders from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other neighbors, business tycoons like Mukesh Ambani and Bollywood stars.

Several ministers from Modi’s old cabinet also took the oath of office, although their new portfolios aren’t known yet. Among them were Amit Shah, a key Modi ally who was home minister, Rajnath Singh, who helmed defense and Nitin Gadkari, who was in charge of transport. Nirmala Sitharaman and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who helmed the finance and foreign ministries, respectively, in the previous administration, were also sworn in.

The prime minister’s inauguration caps days of intense power-jockeying in the capital after his Bharatiya Janata Party lost its outright majority in the lower house of the parliament following a marathon six-week election. The setback forced the BJP to form a government in partnership with its allies, allowing for Modi to return as prime minister of the world’s populous nation but leaving him diminished politically and reliant on partners.

Key questions still hang over the new government, including who will be named to major posts in the cabinet. Allies of the BJP are seeking key positions, and Sunday’s ceremony follows days of internal negotiations among members of the BJP-led bloc, known as the National Democratic Alliance. On Friday, members of the NDA met at the parliament to officially endorse Modi as their leader.

With his inauguration, Modi is only the second prime minister to be elected to three consecutive terms. The country’s first post-independence leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, ruled India for 17 years after its 1947 independence from Britain.

Modi’s electoral setback this year brings to an end a decade of majority-rule by the BJP — a period marked by sustained economic growth, but also by what critics have described as centralization of power and democratic backsliding.

In his third term, Modi has vowed to continue the country’s economic development and work toward a goal of building India into a developed country by 2047. His government faces huge tasks, including tackling unemployment, especially among the young, and inflation — issues that contributed to the BJP’s disappointment at the polls.

The BJP won 240 seats on its own and 293 seats with allies in the 543-seat lower house of the parliament, the Lok Sabha. In the 2019 election, the BJP won 303 seats.

Analysts say a Modi-led government that must answer to partners is a positive outcome for India after a decade of single-party rule.

“You have Modi, who is still leading the government, still able to drive economic reform, still seen as a very capable leader and a popular leader for the next five years running the most populous democracy in the world — but a leader that needs to compromise,” Ian Bremmer, president of political risk-consulting firm Eurasia Group, said in a webinar with Bloomberg TV’s Menaka Doshi.

“This is going to end up being good for the Indian people and it’s going to be good for India’s role in the world,” he said.

--With assistance from Dan Strumpf, Saket Sundria and Debjit Chakraborty.

(Updates with ministers names in third paragraph)

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