Modi becomes PM in history-making transition in India

MODI SWEARING IN smallNew Delhi (IANS): Narendra Modi, India’s 14th prime minister, took oath Monday at a ceremony held in the open at Rashtrapati Bhavan and attended by the Who’s Who of the nation – including political leaders, business honchos, celebrities and leaders of religious faiths – as well as leaders of neighbouring countries.

The oath of office and secrecy was administered in Hindi to Modi by President Pranab Mukherjee.

There was a certain poignancy to the momentous occasion as the inauguration of a new prime minister happened exactly 50 years after the death of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Present on the occasion of the change of guard was the outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh, who remained 10 years at the helm when the general election left the Congress battered and reduced to its lowest tally of 44 seats in the Lok Sabha.

A council of ministers, numbering around 45, also took oath.

Among the foreign leaders who attended the ceremony at the forecourt of the presidential palace were Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Also present were Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan and Bangladesh parliament Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi and former presidents A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil were among the over 4,000 people who gathered on the occasion.

Najma Heptulla is the oldest member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers, while Smriti Irani is the youngest.

The 74-year-old Heptulla is a former deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

Irani, 38, is a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat. She contested the Lok Sabha election from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh but lost to incumbent MP and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The four most prominent faces in the union cabinet are above 60 years of age.

They are Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj, both 62 years, and Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu who are 61 and 64, respectively.

Another leader who is above 70 years of age is Kalraj Mishra. The former president of the Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party unit is 72 years old.