Allies support Modi for third term after defeat

Narendra Modi will become India’s prime minister for the third time, a day after a modest election result left him with a majority for the resurgent opposition.

Modi is backed to return as prime minister after a meeting with his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Wednesday.

The 73-year-old found himself suddenly dependent on the NDA’s smaller parties to achieve a majority in parliament after his party fell short of the 272 needed to form the next government.

However, the opposition – which won 232 seats compared to NDA’s 293 seats – has not yet officially conceded.

They held a private meeting on Wednesday in the capital Delhi to discuss next steps.

Modi is likely to be sworn in for a record third term this weekend.

Mr. Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 240 seats after a seven-phase, weeks-long election, making them the largest party in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house.

But it is a significant drop for the prime minister: in 2019, the BJP won 303 seats, and Modi has said he is aiming for 370 seats this time.

Instead, they must rely on their NDA partners to ensure Modi’s third term.

According to an NDA statement, he was “unanimously” chosen as their leader at a meeting at his Delhi residence, adding that they were “committed to serving the poor, women, youth, peasants and other exploited, deprived and oppressed citizens of India”.

It remains to be seen exactly what concessions their partners can extract from the BJP. Before the meeting, there had been speculation that demands from more powerful groups could include ministerial posts in return for their support.

This is the first time Modi has governed in a coalition with his party holding an outright majority and it is unclear what the next five years will look like.

Nilanajan Mukhopadhyay, Modi’s biographer, told AFP news agency that it would “force Modi to accept other people’s views”.

“We will see more democracy and a healthier parliament,” he added.

“He will have to be an unprecedented leader; we will have to see a new Modi.”

Meanwhile, the INDIAN opposition alliance is celebrating the result – despite not winning.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge told members at the start of the meeting on Wednesday evening that the “mission is unequivocal against Mr. Modi… and the nature and style of his politics”.

This year’s Indian election is the biggest the world has ever seen. More than 600 million people participated – or 66% of the country’s eligible voters. In total, nearly a billion people are registered to vote – about one-eighth of the global population.

Voting was staggered over seven rounds from April 19 to June 1 for security and logistical reasons. Much of the election took place in extreme and deadly heat as temperatures in many parts of India soared to nearly 50 degrees Celsius.

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