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Modi wins third term

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was preparing on Thursday (June 6) to be sworn in for a third term after a surprisingly close election which resulted in his party forming a coalition government.

Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had governed for the past decade with an outright majority, had anticipated another landslide victory. However, the election results released on Tuesday contradicted exit polls, causing the BJP to lose its majority and enter into quick negotiations to form a 15-member coalition that would enable it to govern.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition announced late on Wednesday that they had agreed to form a government.

“We all unanimously choose respected NDA leader Narendra Modi as our leader,” a statement from the BJP alliance said.

The alliance holds 293 seats in parliament, giving it control of the 543-seat body.

Indian media reports indicated that Modi would be sworn in as prime minister on Saturday.

The Hindustan Times editorial on Thursday warned that Modi’s new dependence on “the minefield of coalition politics” suggests a far tougher third term than expected. “Consensus building will have to be the bedrock of governance,” it added, noting that the right-wing BJP would need to “recalibrate its expansion plans.”

Despite the complicated political landscape at home, Modi received congratulations from global leaders.

US President Joe Biden congratulated Modi on his coalition’s victory, with the State Department expressing hopes to work with the Hindu nationalist leader on a “free and open” Asia. “The friendship between our nations is only growing,” Biden wrote, while French President Emmanuel Macron congratulated his “dear friend.”

China also congratulated Modi, stating it was “ready to work” with its neighbor, while Britain, the European Union, Japan, and Russia also applauded the coalition’s win.

Modi, 73, maintained on Tuesday night that the election results were a victory ensuring the continuation of his agenda. “Our third term will be one of big decisions and the country will write a new chapter of development,” Modi told a crowd of cheering supporters in New Delhi. “This is Modi’s guarantee.”

Commentators and exit polls had predicted an overwhelming victory for Modi, who has faced criticism for imprisoning opposition figures and infringing on the rights of India’s Muslim community. However, the BJP won 240 seats in parliament, a significant drop from the 303 it secured five years ago and 32 seats short of a majority on its own.

The main opposition Congress party won 99 seats, almost doubling its 2019 tally of 52.

“Today’s masters are not as strong as they were,” Christophe Jaffrelot, a professor at King’s College London, wrote in The Hindu on Thursday. “For the first time in his political career, Narendra Modi will have to play the coalition game.”

Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge said the result was a vote against Modi “and the substance and style of his politics.” “It is a huge political loss for him personally, apart from being a clear moral defeat as well,” he told party leaders at an opposition alliance meeting.

In a personal setback, Modi was re-elected to his constituency representing the Hindu holy city of Varanasi with a significantly lower margin of 152,300 votes, compared to nearly half a million votes five years ago.

“Elections expressed a yearning for the defence of constitutional values and citizen dignity,” Ashutosh Varshney, a political scientist at Brown University, wrote in the Indian Express on Thursday. Varshney argued that Modi’s setback reflected voter concerns about the “idea of India” amidst rising animosities, societal polarization, concerns about rights, and steeply rising inequalities.

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