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Modi in India calls for 'consensus' at opening of Parliament after elections

Modi in India calls for 'consensus' at opening of Parliament after elections
Modi in India calls for 'consensus' at opening of Parliament after elections

 


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday called for an emboldened opposition to “consensus” as Parliament opened after an electoral setback that forced him to form a coalition government for the first time in a decade.

In the first session, which continues until July 3, an overview of Modi's plans for his third term and the likely formal appointment of Rahul Gandhi as leader of the opposition, a post vacant since 2014, is expected.

Modi's first two terms followed landslide victories for his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), allowing his government to pass laws through Parliament with only cursory debate.

But analysts now expect Modi, 73, to tone down his Hindu nationalist agenda to appease his coalition partners, focusing more on infrastructure, social welfare and economic reforms.

“To rule the country, consensus is of utmost importance,” Modi said in a speech shortly before entering Parliament, calling on the opposition to play a constructive role.

“People expect their representatives to debate and discuss issues important to the country… they do not expect disruption or obstruction of parliamentary proceedings,” he said.

“People want content, not slogans.”

Modi led lawmakers in taking the oath of office as his enthusiastic supporters banged their desks in support and opposition members held up the constitution in protest.

He said he was “proud to serve” India.

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 ready to train,” read the headline. Hindustan Times read Monday.

“A resurgent opposition is ready to put pressure on the government,” said the Indian Express cover page.

Rahul Gandhi, 54, defied analysts' expectations by helping his Congress party almost double its number of parliamentarians, its best result since Modi came to power a decade ago.

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

Parliamentary regulations require the opposition leader to come from a party that controls at least 10 percent of MPs in the 543-seat lower house.

The post has been vacant for 10 years due to two dismal results in Congress elections, after India's dominant party left it short of that threshold.

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