New Delhi : In a setting befitting a king’s coronation, 63-year old Narendra Damodardas Modi was on Monday sworn-in as the 15th prime minister of India. President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office and secrecy on the forecourts of the Rashtrapati Bhawan as thousands of dignitaries witnessed the spectacle in twilight hours. The moment described as “Godhuli bela”– the hour when the cows come home in rural India and raise a lot of dust — marked the advent of the Modi era in Indian politics and was loaded with ample symbolism as it coincided with the eve of the 50th death anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian prime minister whose Nehruvian approach Modi has promised to overturn.
…On the eve of Nehru’s 50th death anniversary
The grandeur of the occasion was in sync with the massive triumph (282 out of 543) that Modi single-handedly notched up in the 2014 general elections, becoming the first leader in over 30 years to have won a mandate on his own for his Bharatiya Janata Party. The last time any party formed a government on its own was when Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi won the 1984 elections with a score of 400 plus seats riding the sympathy wave that erupted after his mother Indira’s assassination.
In a move that raised the international profile of an essentially domestic event, Modi invited all the heads of the government in the SAARC countries for his inauguration. As all the nations responded positively, especially with the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif making it to the occasion, this was seen as a diplomatic coup by Modi even before he was sworn-in. The high point of the day being that Sharif was the first international dignitary to congratulate Modi on becoming the prime minister.
With an array of national and international leaders, and almost the entire frontline business leadership along with Bollywood stars making it to the swearing-in, there were plenty of photo-ops and interesting conversations all over. The Congress president Sonia Gandhi accompanied by her son Rahul made a mark on her arrival and also exchanged a few pleasantries with senior BJP leader L K Advani. Dr Manmohan Singh, the outgoing prime minister, who could not visit Pakistan during his ten year long tenure, also found moments to share with Nawaz Sharif.
Signifying his commitment to technology and the modern social media, within minutes of being sworn-in, Modi went online with his first message to “strengthen the cause of world peace and development.” He said: “On 16th May 2014 the people of India gave their verdict. They delivered a mandate for development, good governance and stability. 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. I envision this website as a very important medium of direct communication between us. I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world. I hope this platform creates opportunities to listen, learn and share one’s views. Through this website you will also get all the latest information about my speeches, schedules, foreign visits and lot more. I will also keep informing you about innovative initiatives undertaken by the Government of India.”
Even as this on-line message was quick, the swearing-in of Modi and his ministers — in all 45 — 23 cabinet ministers, 10 ministers of state with independent charge, and 12 ministers of state was a prolonged affair, testing the patience of quite a few guests as the famous Delhi heat took its toll on those who are usually accustomed to the comforts of controlled ambient temperatures.
As the ministers were sworn-in the following sequence, the pecking order within the cabinet and the hierarchy was also indicated: Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Jairam Gadkari, Sadananda Gowda, Uma Bharati, Najma A. Heptulla, Gopinathrao Munde, Ramvilas Paswan, Kalraj Mishra, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Ananthkumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati, Anant Geete, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Narendra Singh Tomar, Jual Oram, Radha Mohan Singh, Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Smriti Zubin Irani and Dr. Harsh Vardhan — all cabinet ministers
MINISTERS OF STATE (INDEPENDENT CHARGE): General V.K. Singh, Inderjit Singh Rao, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Shripad Yesso Naik, Dharmendra Pradhan, Sarbananda Sonowal, Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal, Dr. Jitendra Singh, and Nirmala Sitharaman
MINISTERS OF STATE: G.M. Siddeshwara, Manoj Sinha. Nihalchand, Upendra Kushwaha, Radhakrishnan P, Kiren Rijiju, Krishan Pal, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava, Raosaheb Dadarao Danve, Vishnu Deo Sai and Sudarshan Bhagat.