India's Modi begins second term as PM, Cabinet ministers sworn in

(Front row, from left) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former home minister Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari at the ceremony yesterday. Other Cabinet members include (from top
More than 8,000 guests attended the swearing-in ceremony held in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (presidential house) in New Delhi yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS
(Front row, from left) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former home minister Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari at the ceremony yesterday. Other Cabinet members include (from top
(Front row, from left) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former home minister Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari at the ceremony yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
(Front row, from left) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former home minister Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari at the ceremony yesterday. Other Cabinet members include (from top
Other Cabinet members include Mr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (above), Ms Smriti Irani and Ms Nirmala Sitharaman.
(Front row, from left) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former home minister Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari at the ceremony yesterday. Other Cabinet members include (from top
Other Cabinet members include Mr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Ms Smriti Irani (above) and Ms Nirmala Sitharaman.
(Front row, from left) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former home minister Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari at the ceremony yesterday. Other Cabinet members include (from top
Other Cabinet members include Mr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Ms Smriti Irani and Ms Nirmala Sitharaman (above).

Indian PM sworn in after landslide win; BJP president Amit Shah among new faces in Cabinet

Mr Narendra Modi has been sworn in as India's 16th prime minister, returning to power for a second term with an even bigger mandate than in 2014.

More than 8,000 people turned up at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (presidential house) for the swearing-in ceremony, including Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Myanmar President Win Myint, as well as opposition leaders and celebrities including actor Rajinikanth.

President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office to the 68-year-old Mr Modi and ministers in the new Cabinet.

The Cabinet includes familiar faces like former home minister Rajnath Singh, 67, former defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, 59, and former transport minister Nitin Gadkari, 62.

Among those making their debut in the Cabinet are Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, 54, and Mr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, 64, a former foreign secretary and former ambassador to Singapore, US and China.

Mr Jaishankar worked closely with Mr Modi as foreign secretary and was a key figure in negotiating the India-US nuclear deal in 2008.

Mr Shah, Mr Modi's closest aide and an astute political strategist, is the biggest addition to the Cabinet and a big cheer went up when he was called to take his oath.

 
 
 
 

The BJP president has been part of Mr Modi's political journey since the 1990s.

Other top leaders in the Cabinet include Ms Smriti Irani, who was seen to have pulled off one of the biggest wins by defeating Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the Amethi constituency.

She was minister for textiles in the previous Cabinet.

Notably absent in Mr Modi's second term are former finance minister Arun Jaitley and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj - both due to poor health.

The grand ceremony marked the return of Mr Modi, who rose from humble beginnings to create history by leading the BJP to two back-to-back landslide wins in a country where politics had been dominated by coalitions and the Congress Party until 2014.

The BJP thundered back to victory on the back of Mr Modi's popularity and a high-octane election campaign that focused on issues of nationalism following an outbreak of hostilities with Pakistan that led to tit-for-tat air strikes.

The BJP won 303 seats in the Lower House of Parliament, up from 282 in 2014.

The opposition was decimated, with Congress winning 52 seats, up from 44 in 2014.

Analysts said the Cabinet is a mix of key allies and loyalists.

"It looks as if loyalty is also an important criterion in the choice of Cabinet ministers," said Dr Sandeep Shastri, pro-vice-chancellor of Jain University.

Ahead of the swearing-in, Mr Modi visited a war memorial near Parliament and said: "India is proud of all those brave men and women martyred in the line of duty.

"Our government will leave no stone unturned to safeguard India's unity and integrity. National security is our priority."

Mr Modi has reached out to minorities unnerved by an upsurge in Hindu nationalism and a divisive election campaign by some BJP leaders. He has promised to work for all sections of society.

"A massive mandate also increases one's responsibility," he added.

Analysts say the new government must address several challenges immediately.

"He will have to generate employment and resolve the agricultural mess, otherwise people are going to get restive," said Mr Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, an author and journalist, adding that Mr Modi's biggest challenges are economic.

"Mr Modi has always been a man of event. The mandate is bigger, so is the ceremony."

Mr Modi invited the leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation - consisting of seven South Asian and South-east Asian countries including Thailand and Myanmar - to his swearing-in, as he reached out to the region.

As the BJP savoured its election win, the rival Congress appeared to be in crisis with its president Mr Gandhi, who was present at the swearing-in, refusing to take back his resignation which he submitted after the humiliating election defeat.

The Congress also announced it was boycotting television. "Congress has decided to not send spokespersons on television debates for a month," a spokesman tweeted. "All media channels/editors are requested to not place Congress representatives on their shows."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2019, with the headline 'Modi begins second term as PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe