New Delhi: Manmohan Singh was Friday sworn-in as Prime Minister for a second consecutive term at the head of a 20-member team in the first installment of government formation truncated by the deadlock over portfolios for DMK members.
Click here to watch video
Nineteen other members of his cabinet, including Congress stalwart Pranab Mukherjee, who is tipped to be the new finance minister, were sworn in. Portfolios of the ministers have not been allocated.
Sharad Pawar, A K Antony and P Chidambaram, already ministers in the outgoing government, were among those who took the oaths of office and secrecy along with new entrants S M Krishna, Mamata Banerjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Veerappa Moily and C P Joshi.
In constituting the new government, senior Congress leaders Arjun Singh, H R Bhardwaj, Saifuddin Soz and Sis Ram Ola do not figure in the ministry.
S Jaipal Reddy, Vayalar Ravi, Sushilkumar Shinde, Kamal Nath, Meira Kumar, Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Ambika Soni, B K Handique and Murli Deora have retained their berth in the ministry with Sharma and Handique being elevated.
The oath taking ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhavan was attended among others by Vice President Hamid Ansari, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader L K Advani. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Lalu Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan and service chiefs were also present.
Rahul Gandhi, the fourth generation member of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, was not among the ministers sworn in, despite reports that the heir apparent, seen as the architect of the party’s resurgence, could be given a ministerial job.
Unfettered by its former leftist allies, Congress is likely to push reforms such as raising the foreign investment limit in insurance and opening up the pension sector.
The Indian stockmarket surged earlier this week as investors welcomed Singh’s strong mandate, which raised expectations for aggressive economic reforms at a time when growth in Asia’s third-largest economy has slowed to 6.5%.
Besides the slowdown, Singh’s second term will face an array of challenges such as fraught relations with old rival Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks and a potential showdown with wealthier countries at the Doha world trade talks.
“There is an opportunity for change with this mandate. If in the first 100 days I don’t see any signs of reforms being done or a timeline I will feel very concerned,” said Amit Mitra, head of India’s industry lobby group.