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Wednesday, 20 October, 1999, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Indian parliament's inaugural session
Sonia Gandhi took her oath in Hindi
Sonia Gandhi took her oath in Hindi
India's new parliament has convened for the first time since the country's elections ended earlier this month.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
The five-week long poll was won by the previous governing coalition under the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who now begins his third term of office.

This session marks the parliamentary debut for Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, whose party performed poorly in the election.

The opening of parliament is a largely-symbolic occasion when members take an oath, choose a speaker, and plan for a substantive legislative agenda.

That will be laid out in a joint session of the upper and lower houses of parliament next week.

BBC Delhi correspondent Daniel Lak says the new government coalition has more MPs and is probably more stable than its predecessor.

Although Prime Minister Vajpayee has to rely on the support of up to 20 parties, analysts say there is no discernible dissent within his coalition at the moment.

The swearing-in ceremony, which will take two days, began when President KR Narayanan administered the oath of office to interim speaker Indrajit Gupta.

His oath-taking took place in a separate ceremony at the presidential mansion, attended by Prime Minister Vajpayee and other high-ranking parliamentarians.

Mr Vajpayee and opposition leader Sonia Gandhi were among the first MPs to be sworn in individually.

Mrs Gandhi, who will be the leader of the opposition in the house, took her oath in Hindi to loud cheering from her party.

Several members of Mr Vajpayee's new cabinet walked across the floor to congratulate her.

Economics number one

The agenda of the new parliament will be dominated by India's economy.

The new government will have to tacle poverty
The new government will have to tackle poverty
Mr Vajpayee will be looking for quick improvements in investment and the overall economy as the early achievements of his government, commentators say.

He is also promising jobs to India's young people and development for the rural poor.

Several controversial economic and social bills - held up for years - are waiting to be taken up for debate, including one on liberalising the heavily-regulated insurance sector and another on setting aside a third of parliamentary seats for women.

Sonia's debut

Earlier, Sonia Gandhi resigned from one of two constituencies that she had won in the general election.

She gave up the Bellary parliamentary seat in south India, retaining Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

Candidates in India are allowed to contest two seats, but must resign from one within 15 days of the election.

The recent general election saw the Congress Party go down to its worst-ever defeat.

Sonia Gandhi's political inexperience and her choice of advisors were both heavily criticised during and after the election.

As leader of the opposition, she will be responsible leading her party back to the forefront of Indian politics.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
BBC Delhi correspondent Daniel Lak: "This session might have a challenging agenda in front of it"
Audio
India correspondent Daniel Lak: "A day of ceremony and re-assertion of India's parliamentary traditions"
See also:

08 Sep 99 | South Asia
15 Oct 99 | South Asia
01 Oct 99 | South Asia
16 Oct 99 | South Asia
08 Oct 99 | South Asia
19 Oct 99 | South Asia
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