Narendra Modi takes oath as India’s 15th PM; Cabinet has no big surprises

President Pranab Mukherjee administers oath to Narendra Modi as the 15th Prime Minister of India, at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. (Source: PTI) President Pranab Mukherjee administers oath to Narendra Modi as the 15th Prime Minister of India, at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

Armed with a decisive mandate, Narendra Modi took oath as the 15th Prime Minister of India on Monday evening. In keeping with his “minimum government, maximum governance” mantra, Modi opted for a lean team of 45 ministers — 23 Cabinet Ministers, 10 Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 12 Ministers of State. The average age of the Cabinet is 60 years.

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Ten minutes after 6 pm, Modi, 63, was sworn in to office by President Pranab Mukherjee at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, in the presence of a galaxy of dignitaries including heads of SAARC countries like Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapaksa and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

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BJP president Rajnath Singh took oath after Modi, followed by Sushma Swaraj and then Arun Jaitley, indicating the pecking order in the new cabinet. The Prime Minister and the three senior ministers will comprise the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). All the four will sit in the all-powerful CCS for the first time. While Singh, Swaraj and Jaitley were ministers in the A B Vajpayee government, they did not hold the crucial Defence, External Affairs and Home portfolios.

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As expected, the BJP retained most of the cabinet berths, giving only four to its allies — LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan, Shiv Sena’s Anant Geete, TDP’s Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal. Among the other senior BJP leaders who have been included in the Cabinet are Nitin Gadkari, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, Uma Bharti, Gopinath Munde, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Najma Heptulla, the lone Muslim face.

This is the smallest government to take oath in the last 15 years. While Manmohan Singh led a 67-member Council of Ministers in his first term, his team increased to 78 ministers in UPA-II. Former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee was sworn in with 71 ministers in 1999.

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Among the big states, Rajasthan, where the BJP won all 25 Lok Sabha seats, got only one ministerial berth. Modi ignored the four people whose names were recommended by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for inclusion in the ministry, including her son, Dushyant Singh.

The new ministry has seven Brahmins, five Khastriyas, six OBCs, five Scheduled Tribes, three Scheduled Castes, two Sikhs, two Banias, one Khatri, one Buddhist and one Muslim.

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The inclusion of Madhya Pradesh BJP president Narendra Singh Tomar and former state chief minister Uma Bharti is bad news for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. As a union minister, Bharti will be free to go to Madhya Pradesh, which would mean an end to her political exile from her home state. She was earlier sent to Uttar Pradesh to ensure that she did not put Chouhan to any discomfort.

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By taking both Gadkari and Gopinath Munde in the Cabinet, Modi has apparently tried to maintain a balance between the different factions in the party’s Maharashtra unit. He has also kept in mind the Assembly elections in the state due later this year.

Modi has sent out a message to Haryana too, which is also going to polls later this year, by inducting Gurgaon MP Rao Inderjit Singh and Faridabad MP Krishan Pal Gujjar. Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the BJP performed well, have been left out. Kalraj Mishra, who was made to shift to Deoria from Kanpur — a constituency which he has been nursing for a long time — at the eleventh hour, has also made it to the Cabinet.

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Several ministers who were sworn in on Monday were also a part of Vajpayee’s team. These include Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Uma Bharti, Ram Vilas Paswan, Maneka Gandhi, Ananth Kumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Anant Geete, Jual Oram and Santosh Gangwar.

While Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Sadhvi Ritambhara attended the swearing-in, yoga guru Ramdev was absent.