Modi sworn in, unveils lean Cabinet team

New Indian PM promises 'minimum government, maximum governance'

This article was first published on May 27, 2014

Mr Narendra Modi was sworn in as India's Prime Minister yesterday, opening a new chapter in the history of the world's largest democracy and signalling a shift in its leadership from a floundering coalition to a Hindu nationalist alliance that has vowed to be strong and decisive.

Mr Modi, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also brought in one of the leanest Cabinets in recent times, promising "minimum government and maximum governance".

Dressed in an off-white kurta and a brown half-jacket, the 63-year-old was administered his oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee under a clear, summer evening sky in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan or Presidential Palace as supporters cheered and fireworks lit the sky.

An unprecedented crowd of more than 3,000 people gathered to witness the inauguration, including the leaders of six South Asian nations such as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Also among the guests were outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, state and national politicians, diplomats, top Indian business leaders and Bollywood stars.

Absent were Mr Modi's mother and siblings, who watched the ceremony on television in his home state of Gujarat. Mr Modi has long been separated from his wife and has always kept a distance between his family and public life.

Minutes after he was sworn in, his message to the country and the world was posted on the Prime Minister's official website.

"On 16th May 2014, the people of India gave their verdict. They delivered a mandate for development, good governance and stability," he said.

"As we devote ourselves to take India's development journey to newer heights, we seek your support, blessings and active participation. Together we will script a glorious future for India. Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development."

President Mukherjee also administered the oath of office to 45 Cabinet and junior ministers, making the new team much more compact than Dr Singh's team of 70.

The new ministers included BJP president Rajnath Singh, and senior party leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Retired army chief V. K. Singh, who had a row with the previous government over his date of birth, was made a junior minister.

Mr Modi began his day by paying his respects at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi. Showing he was getting into his groove even before he was formally sworn in, he tweeted that he had told his Cabinet Secretary to ensure timely assistance to those injured in a train accident in Uttar Pradesh state. At least nine were killed and scores injured in the crash.

There was also unpleasant news for the new Prime Minister from Gujarat. Police fired tear gas to disperse clashing Hindu and Muslim mobs in Ahmedabad on Sunday night after angry crowds set fire to shops and vehicles. Police suspected the unrest started after two cars from the two communities crashed during a marriage procession, reports said.

yprajesh@sph.com.sg

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