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PM Modi pledges to take India to new heights

The Hindu BusinessLine:  May, 2014

New Delhi: Narendra Damodardas Modi took oath as the 15{+t}{+h} Prime Minister on Monday along with 45 ministers, once again catching pundits off guard with his conventional choices for the Cabinet.

In a statement on the PMO website, which went live after Modi was sworn in, the new Prime Minister said: “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,” added the 63-year-old BJP leader.

“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,” the statement said.

The clutch of 23 Cabinet Ministers, 10 Ministers of State with Independent Charge, and 12 Ministers of State included neither a technocrat nor any big surprise.

The Prime Minister took everyone along, including dissenting colleagues such as Sushma Swaraj, who is tipped to be the External Affairs Minister.

Swaraj was the second to take oath after party president Rajnath Singh, who is expected to take charge of Home although portfolios were not announced till the time of going to press.

Most regions from Kashmir to Kanyakumari were represented. Jitender Singh, who defeated Ghulam Nabi Azad from Udhampur in Kashmir, was accommodated as a Minister of State (Independent Charge) as was Pon Radhakrishnan from Kanyakumari.

States well-represented

This council has eight ministers from Uttar Pradesh, five each from Maharashtra and Bihar, four from Karnataka, three each from Gujarat and MP, two from Haryana and one each from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Odisha, Delhi, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand.

The Prime Minister has made sure that there is parity not just in terms of regional representation but also with regard to gender and community.

Najma Heptullah, the lone Muslim face, is among the seven women ministers. Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti, Maneka Gandhi and Harsimrat Kaur Badal all have Cabinet rank while Nirmala Sitharaman is MoS (Independent Charge).

However, there is some caste imbalance in the Cabinet. Among the 45 ministers , 23 are upper castes including seven Brahmins, one Bhumihar, five Rajputs, two Banias, two Khatris, and one Kayastha, Kamma, Raju, Maratha, Lingayat, and Jat Sikh each.

There are three Dalits, six adivasis and one Muslim. The remaining 12 are OBCs - a Jat, Gujjar, Yadav, Kurmi, Kushwaha, Lodh, Kunbi, Dhangar, Bhandari, Vokkaliga, Nadar and a Khandayat.

Allies on board

The allies have been accommodated as promised with Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party getting a Cabinet berth. Upendra Kushwaha (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party) too has been accommodated as also Anant Geete from the Shiv Sena, Ashok Gajapati Raju from the TDP, and Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Shiromani Akali Dal).

Sanjiv Baliyan, an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots, who won from the seat, has been accommodated in the Council.

For the third time, the swearing-in ceremony took place in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, in the presence of over 4,000 guests, the largest till date.

SAARC leaders attend

Also, for the first time, the ceremony had the presence of three heads of state (of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Maldives), four Premiers (of Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Mauritius) and the Speaker of the Bangladesh National Parliament.

The council is also smaller in comparison to the 71 ministers in UPA-II, 67 in UPA-I and 78 in the Vajpayee Government.

Interestingly, despite the BJP winning 282 seats on its own and the NDA 336, Modi has included one Minister (Nirmala Sitaraman), who is yet to become a member of any House and one member, Prakash Javadekar, whose term as a Rajya Sabha member has expired.