Newly confident opposition stages walkout as Modi address India’s new parliament

Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout as prime minister Narendra Modi delivered the first address of his new term to the Indian parliament on Wednesday.

The opposition INDIA bloc, led by the Congress party, feels emboldened after an unexpectedly impressive performance in last month’s national election. Belying expectations and exit polls, they denied Mr Modi an outright parliamentary majority, leaving him reliant on mercurial allies to rule for a third consecutive term.

As Mr Modi began speaking on a motion of thanks for the Indian president’s customary inaugural address, opposition members in the Rajya Sabha, the parliament’s upper house, demanded that he answer their questions about the situation in Manipur, a remote northeastern state ravaged by a deadly ethnic war.

The prime minister has not visited the state since the violence started more than a year ago.

Speaking in the house earlier, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi sought “justice” for Manipur.

The opposition lawmakers, shouting “justice for Manipur” as Mr Modi spoke, asked for their floor leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, to respond to the prime minister’s claims in his speech but were denied by the Rajya Sabha chair.

As the lawmakers walked out, Mr Modi said they were “running away because they cannot hear the truth”.

“They are not able to digest defeat,” he added.

Mr Kharge later said he and his allies walked out because Mr Modi has “a habit of lying”.

“We walked out because the prime minister said some wrong things to the house. It’s his habit to lie and say things beyond truth.”

Mr Modi’s address marked the conclusion of the first session of the new parliament.

The session saw fiery speeches by opposition members buoyed by their performance in the last election.

In a speech on Monday, Mr Gandhi hit out at Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist ruling party for allegedly inciting religious hatred and violence.

He also accused Mr Modi and his government of favouring billionaires Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani.

Some of his remarks were later expunged from the parliamentary record, reportedly after some ministers met the speaker and flagged “inaccuracies” in the opposition leader’s speech.

The decision sparked condemnation from the opposition.

Saying the truth cannot be expunged, Mr Gandhi told the speaker: "Taking off from records my considered remarks goes against the very tenets of parliamentary democracy.”