Indian house elects veteran Modi ally as speaker

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.

President Pranab Mukherjee is due to present the government's agenda next week, with parliament reconvening in July to consider Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's first budget.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.