Modi sworn in for third term as India's Prime Minister

The Indian premier is only the second to win three consecutive terms in the country's history

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi takes the oath of office as India's Prime Minister for a third time at the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi on June 9, 2024. AFP
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Narendra Modi made history on Sunday as he took the oath of office as India’s Prime Minister for a third time after three election victories in a row.

He is the second leader to achieve the feat since independence after India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, won a third term in a row in 1962.

Mr Modi, 73, was sworn in by President Droupadi Murmu at the President’s House in Delhi.

He first gained power in 2014, when his Bharatiya Janata Party swept the elections. It won with a bigger mandate in 2019. This term begins with him at the head of a coalition government.

World leaders including Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, Nepal’s Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Bhutan’s Tshering Tongbay and President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinhe, were among the xxx dignitaries who attended the ceremony which was broadcast live.

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu also attended the ceremony. It was his first visit to New Delhi since coming to power last November after a campaign marked by anti-India rhetoric.

Mr Modi had met President Murmu on Friday and staked claims to forming the government with the support of the allies of his BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

The BJP failed to win an outright majority of 272 seats, taking 240 seats in recently held elections to Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. The NDA won 293 seats.

Mr Modi had claimed that his party will cross the 400 seats mark.

The main opposition Indian National Congress party won 99 seats and its INDIA alliance won 232 seats.

As both the BJP and Congress were short of the majority mark, they were vying for support from smaller regional parties to form a government.

The BJP negotiated with its NDA partners on Friday, particularly with the leaders of Telugu Desam Party that won 16 seats and Janata Dal (United) that won 12 seats. The leaders of both parties unanimously backed Mr Modi as their prime ministerial candidate.

The unexpected results have come as a shock for the Hindu nationalist party that won with sweeping majorities in the past elections, as well as for Mr Modi, who has enjoyed an absolute mandate in the past, whether as Chief Minister of his home state of Gujarat or as twice as Prime Minister.

Modi’s rise to power

Mr Modi has been engaged in politics for more than five decades.

He was born into an ordinary family in a nondescript town in Gujarat’s Mehsana district.

His father sold tea in a stall at a railway station and Mr Modi has spoken about helping to support his father as a child.

In politics, he started as a karyakrta – a volunteer with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ultra right wing Hindu organisation and ideological fountainhead of the BJP in the 1970s.

He forayed into politics when he was shifted to the BJP in 1987. He held several positions within the party.

He was chosen to replace the then Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel in 2001 because of Mr Patel’s deteriorating health.

Mr Modi was first elected to power in a by-poll on February 24, 2002.

Three days later, violence broke out in Godhra after 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed by a group of Muslims after they attacked a coach of the Sabarmati Express train at the city’s railway station.

The pilgrims had returned from the Hindu holy city of Ayodhya, where right-wing Hindus had razed a 16th century mosque in 1992 allegedly built over the birthplace of Hindu deity Lord Ram.

The attack spiralled out of control and sparked communal violence for days across Gujarat in which more than 1,000 people, majority of them Muslims, were killed.

Mr Modi was accused of fanning and even encouraging sectarian violence. Cases were filed against him for his involvement, but the Supreme Court closed them due to lack of evidence.

He was banned by the US from travelling to the country and criticised by the UK.

Mr Modi, however, enjoyed great popularity within the state and won three consecutive assembly elections, remaining the state chief minister for over 12 years.

He was lauded for Gujarat’s economic development and booming businesses and bringing foreign investments during his tenure.

Mr Modi was nominated by the BJP as their prime ministerial candidate for Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

He campaigned heavily with “Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar” or "This time Modi government" urging voters to elect him and his BJP over the decade-old rule of Indian National Congress party that was accused by its opposition of corruption, failure to control inflation and the country's faltering growth.

The BJP under his candidature won 282 seats in 2014, a landslide majority for a single party – the first time since 1984 when Congress’s Rajiv Gandhi became the prime minister with absolute majority after the assassination of his mother and prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Mr Modi stunned the country when he banned all 500 ($6) and 1000 ($12) rupees notes in 2016 in an act of demonetisation when the currency notes were arbitrarily made invalid.

He also introduced a new tax regime that meant more tax share to the central government. The high tax rate hurt small and medium enterprises rendering millions in informal sector jobless.

Mr Modi won with an even a bigger majority in 2019 when his party swept 303 seats and the NDA coalition won 353 seats.

He focused the second term on building resilient infrastructure to match the needs of a growing population, spending billions of dollars in upgrading motorways, waterways and airports and revamping imperial-era railways.

He gave a push to India's digital economy and muscular foreign policy.

But critics and opponents accused Mr Modi of promoting a Hindu hegemony agenda propagated by his right-wing government that led to increased sectarian tensions in the country amid a rise in Hindu nationalist sentiments.

His government focused on policies that many say are against Muslims, including a controversial citizenship law for immigrants that excludes Muslims from becoming Indians.

His government outlawed the Muslim practice of instant divorce and there were campaigns in BJP-ruled states to ban halal food, and the Hijab, while ostracising Muslims and their businesses.

Political opponents also accused Mr Modi and the BJP of undermining India’s democratic system, damaging law enforcement and the judiciary while targeting journalists and dissenters in a widespread crackdown.

Mr Modi has announced a number of promises for the development of the country’s youth, women, farmers and the underprivileged in his third term.

The party has also pledged to implement One Nation, One Election – holding elections to parliament and state legislatures simultaneously to increase transparency, reduce costs and improve government and to introduce the contentious Uniform Civil Code.

The BJP has campaigned for decades to introduce a law covering marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption that applies to all of India's various religious and ethnic groups, instead allowing each to follow their scriptures and traditions in these matters, as is the case currently.

Updated: June 09, 2024, 3:42 PM