Narendra Modi has been sworn in for an historic third term, but he faces challenges like never before

Narendra Modi has been sworn in for an historic third term, but he faces challenges like never before
  • PublishedJune 11, 2024

Narendra Modi has been sworn in as India’s Prime Minister for a third term, but with it comes a string of challenges the 73-year-old leader is yet to face in his political career.

Large crowds gathered to witness Mr Modi’s swearing in at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace in New Delhi, on Sunday. 

Mr Modi took the oath in front of President Droupadi Murmu and bowed towards the cheering crowd.

It was the culmination of a mammoth six-week election in the world’s most populous country.

A man and a woman are facing each other. Each of them is holding their hands together and bowing their heads.
India’s President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.(Reuters: Adnan Abidi)

India’s Election Commission said a record-breaking 642 million voters cast ballots in scorching summer heat.

While it is certainly an historic victory — only India’s founding prime minister has previously won three straight terms — Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fell well short of expectations.

Mr Modi, often seen as an invincible figure in Indian politics, failed to win a majority, meaning he had to rely on other parties in his coalition to form government.

A large group of people gathering in front of a large government building on a sunny day.
Crowds gather ahead of Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in New Delhi.(Reuters: Adnan Abidi)

Fresh challenges

After a decade in power and now winning a third-straight election, Narendra Modi has achieved a rare feat in Indian politics.

Mr Modi has governed in a coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the past 10 years, but this is the first time he has had to rely on regional allies to return him to power. 

His Hindu-nationalist BJP only won 240 seats, which is far from the landslide some had predicted, and well short of Mr Modi’s desire of 400 seats.

It was such a shocking result, one Indian pollster was seen crying on national television as he realised how wrong his pre-election predictions were.

But with the support of 14 regional parties, the BJP-led alliance secured 293 seats in the 543-member decision-making lower house, to return Mr Modi to power.

Running this new coalition will undoubtedly come with its challenges for a man seen to have an iron grip on power in India.

Some have accused Mr Modi’s leadership of verging on authoritarianism, due to a crackdown on political opposition, minorities and the media.

Now, he will have to accommodate competing priorities and personalities from within his coalition. 

That will have financial implications, as some parties in Mr Modi’s alliance have already demanded more funds for their states, as well as federal cabinet positions. 

One of Mr Modi’s two main allies was with the opposition as recently as January, while the other is a regional leader who helped build the coalition that tried to unseat him at the 2019 election.

But key NDA leaders have vowed to support Mr Modi, and expressed confidence in his leadership.

People dancing inside a building
After winning more seats than expected, supporters of the main opposition Indian National Congress party began to celebrate. (ABC News: Bhat Burhan)

While India has the world’s fastest-growing major economy, there are also plenty of challenges for Mr Modi on that front.

Unemployment rates among people who have graduated from school or university are particularly concerning.

A report from the International Labour Organization this year found the jobless rate for university graduates was just shy of 30 per cent, a rate nine times higher than that of people who cannot read or write.

Children play football in the street of slum area in Kolkata, India
Inequality remains an issue across India.

Inflation remains above the central bank’s target of 4 per cent, and inequality is a persistent issue.

An Oxfam report found the richest 10 per cent of the population holds almost 80 per cent of the country’s total wealth.

While the country’s economy is the fifth-largest in the world, its per capita income remains the lowest among G20 nations.


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