NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in on Thursday with a 57 member council of ministers kicking off the Modi government’s second term in office.
This marks the first time in India’s history that a non-Congress led government has returned to power for a second consecutive term after winning a majority. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bagged 303 seats on its own in the 545 member Lok Sabha in the recently concluded seven phased national polls and with allies in the National Democratic Alliance, they won 353 seats.
The outdoor ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan lasted just over two hours.
Present to witness Modi’s swearing in were the leaders of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan besides the president of the Kyrgyz Republic and the prime minister of Mauritius. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former party president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh also attended the ceremony among other political leaders. Notable among the new faces in the council ministers were Amit Shah, the BJP president and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, former foreign secretary.
Modi’s outgoing cabinet had 25 cabinet ministers, 11 ministers of state with independent chare and 34 ministers of state. At that time, he had promised minimum government and maximum governance. This time round 24 cabinet ministers and 33 ministers of state took oath of office.
The outgoing cabinet had six women cabinet ministers including Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharati, Maneka Gandhi and Harsimrat Kaur Badal. In the new cabinet, Modi has retained Sitharaman, Badal and Irani as cabinet ministers dropping the other three. Swaraj, foreign minister in the outgoing government and Bharti, minister for drinking water and sanitation were seen sitting among the invitees at the swearing in ceremony. Another notable absentee from the line up of ministers this time round has been Arun Jaitely, finance minister in the outgoing cabinet. Jaitely cited serious health challenges and made the request on Wednesday in a letter addressed to prime minister elect Modi. Besides being part of the Modi government, Jaitely was also a member of the first NDA cabinet headed by former prime minister Atal Behati Vajpayee.
The new cabinet had representation from allies of the NDA including Ram Vilas Paswan from Lok Janshakti Party (Bihar), Arvind Sawant from Shiv Sena (Maharashtra) and Harsimrat Kaur from Shiromani Akali Dal (Punjab). Representation from Bihar ally chief minister Nitish Kumar led Janata Dal (United) was missing.
The BJP’s election slogan in 2014 was “sab ka saath sab ka vikas" or prosperity for all. And good governance was a predominant theme during the current election campaign as well with the opposition lead by the Congress party unsuccessfully trying to corner it on an alleged scam in the procurement of the Rafale fighter aircraft. Modi’s decisive action after the 14 February Pulwama attack – bombing Balakot region in Pakistan – also swung opinion towards the ruling combine.
In his speech to newly elected MPs of the NDA last week, Modi gave the elected representatives a new slogan sab ka saath sab ka vikas, sabka vishwas" – as he urged them not to differentiate between people on the basis of caste, region and religion. Talking about the work done for the socially and financially weaker section of people in the past five years of the NDA, Modi said the message for the coming five years was not just development for all, but also to win the trust of everyone.
"We are for the 130 crore people of the country, we cannot differentiate between anyone. We cannot differentiate on the basis caste and religion or region. We have shown how to achieve Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (development for all) and now we have to win Sabka Vishwas (trust of everyone). We are for the people who trusted us and those whose trust we need to win. Nobody should be 'other' for us. It takes a lot of strength to try and win the hearts of people," Narendra Modi during the parliamentary party meeting of the NDA.
Modi had further elaborated that while the government in its first term had succeeded to work for the poor and socially weaker sections, in the second term, representatives should work towards winning the hearts of minorities. Modi said political parties had made false promises to minorities and created an environment of fear among them.