For a democracy, inauguration day is usually a time of renewed faith. But in India, the fall of three governments in 20 months, combined with religious and sectional violence, has tempered hopes.
Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, 70, took office recently after the most traumatic parliamentary elections in India's history. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the leader of the largest political party, Congress-I, was only one of more than 300 people killed.
Rao, who was unanimously chosen by Congress-I to be India's ninth prime minister, inherits a destabilized parliamentary system, as well as age-old religious conflicts, caste tensions and explosive separatist movements.
Rao's health is a worry. And his job is made more difficult by the lack of a clear voter mandate. The recent election drew only 53% of India's eligible voters, the lowest turnout since independence. Although Congress-I emerged from the elections as the largest single party, it fell nearly 15 seats short of a controlling majority.