Modi calls for ‘consensus’ as Indian parliament opens following elections

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for “consensus” from an emboldened opposition as parliament convened on Monday, marking his first session after an election setback that necessitated forming a coalition government for the first time in a decade.

Expected during this initial session, running until July 3, are insights into Modi’s plans for his third term and the anticipated appointment of Rahul Gandhi as the leader of the opposition — a position vacant since 2014.

Modi’s previous terms were marked by substantial victories for his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), allowing his government to swiftly pass laws with minimal debate. Now, analysts anticipate the 73-year-old to adjust his Hindu-nationalist agenda to accommodate coalition partners, focusing on infrastructure, social welfare, and economic reforms.

“In governing the nation, consensus is paramount,” Modi stated in a speech before entering parliament, urging the opposition to engage constructively. “Citizens expect their representatives to debate and discuss critical issues… not disrupt parliamentary proceedings,” he emphasized. “Substance, not slogans, is what people desire.”

Modi led lawmakers in taking their oath amidst cheers from supporters and opposition members displaying the constitution in protest. He expressed pride in serving India.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Kiren Rijiju emphasized the need for a “peaceful and productive” session, while Indian media anticipated vigorous debates with a stronger opposition presence.

“One headline in The Hindustan Times read ‘All set to spar’,” while The Indian Express added, “Resurgent opposition set to push government.”

Rahul Gandhi, 54, surpassed expectations by nearly doubling his Congress party’s parliamentary numbers, its strongest performance since Modi’s rise to power.

Gandhi, scion of a political dynasty spanning generations, including independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru, met the parliamentary requirement for opposition leadership.

The session began with newly elected lawmakers taking their oaths over two days, with attention on two elected members currently detained: Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh and former Kashmir legislator Sheikh Abdul Rashid.

Modi’s tenure has seen him championing India’s majority Hindu faith, yet his BJP’s recent election results — 240 seats, 32 short of a majority — necessitated coalition governance for the first time in a decade.

Key ministries remain BJP-led, although coalition allies secured prominent posts. The election of the speaker, pivotal in managing the lower house, is slated for Wednesday, with coalition allies and BJP both eyeing the role.

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