Accessibility links

Newly Elected Indian Lawmakers Convene First Parliament Session - 2004-06-02


India's newly elected parliament has convened for its first session under the new Congress-led government. The Congress Party has come to power after scoring an unexpected victory over Hindu nationalists in recent parliamentary elections.

Newly elected members of the Congress Party and its allies exuded confidence as they were sworn into parliament Wednesday.

Among the first to take the oath was Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, who ousted the Bharatiya Janata Party from power.

Italian-born Mrs. Gandhi declined the post of prime minister, but has a powerful role in the new government, as she remains leader of the Congress party in parliament.

Kapil Sabil, a prominent Congress Party leader and Science and Technology minister, says his party is looking forward to leading a coalition government for the first time.

"We will have a successful tenure," he said. "We will probably have an untroubled tenure, and I think the fact that we have agreed on a common minimum program gives us the roadmap for the future."

The Congress Party won 145 seats in the 545-member house, and has put together a government with the help of regional parties. Leftist parties will give the government outside support.

The Congress Party is back in power after spending eight years in the opposition. It governed for more than four decades after India gained independence in 1947, but began losing ground to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the 1990s.

The B.J.P., which was widely expected to retain power, is coming to terms with its role as the opposition.

On Tuesday it chose former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani as its leader in parliament after former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee turned down the post.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will outline the policies of the Congress-led government to the new lawmakers on Monday, but political analyst Prem Shankar Jha says the plan for governance is still unclear.

"Increasing growth rate, increasing employment growth rate, reducing income disparities, giving reforms a human face, these are wonderful sounding phrases, but until we know what they have in mind it is impossible to tell where we are going," he said.

The new parliament's speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, comes from a communist party, which has won the post for the first time.

The new parliament also has its fair share of glamour, with several film stars occupying parliamentary seats.

XS
SM
MD
LG