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Indian house elects veteran Modi ally as speaker

Published on Jun 6, 2014 2:59 PM
Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member and parliamentarian Sumitra Mahajan gestures as she enters parliament in New Delhi on June 6, 2014. Ms Mahajan was formally elected Speaker for the Lok Sabha, India's Lower House of Parliament. India's new Parliament begain its first session after the national election, which swept Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP to power. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - India's lower house of parliament elected a veteran ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as speaker on Friday, clearing a key hurdle before the government unveils its policy programme next week.

Sumitra Mahajan, 71, an eight-term member of the house from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was unanimously elected as speaker of the 545-member Lok Sabha, or House of the People.

Modi won the first outright parliamentary majority in 30 years in last month's election, creating expectations that the new legislature will do a better job after a previous term marked by legislative drift and chaotic debates.

Although the BJP and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance control a big majority, with a combined count of 336 seats, Modi will need to cobble together alliances to pass some measures through the upper house.

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