Narendra Modi, after his swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi yesterday, shakes hands with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa looks on. Photo: AFP
India's newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to forge a "strong and inclusive India” and script a glorious future for the country.
Ten days after spearheading the Bharatiya Janata Party to a remarkable victory in parliamentary elections, the Hindu nationalist leader was sworn in yesterday as India's fifteenth prime minister.
Modi, 63, will head a 45-member council of ministers, marking a paradigm shift from ten years of a Centre-Left Congress-led UPA government to a Centre-Right dispensation.
He was administered the oath of office and secrecy by President Pranab Mukherjee at a grand function in the historic forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
An estimated 4,000 people, including heads of state and government of seven Saarc countries, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa attended the ceremony. Bangladesh was represented by Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was away on an official tour of Japan.
"I, Narendra Damodardas Modi, swear in the name of God that I will maintain the integrity of India," Modi said as he took the oath in Hindi at the ceremony.
"I will work without fear, anger or hatred and will do justice to all as per the constitution." In his first statement as Prime Minister, Modi promised to forge a "strong and inclusive" India.
"As we devote ourselves to take India's development journey to newer heights, we seek your support, blessings and active participation," Modi said.
"Together we will script a glorious future for India," added the 63-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, who has an image as a hardline Hindu nationalist and has remained a deeply polarising figure since the 2002 communal riots when he had already become Gujarat's chief minister.
Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, second from left, with the leaders of Saarc countries and new Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi, fourth from right, and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, fifth from right, after the swearing-in ceremony for Modi at the Rastrapati Bhavan in New Delhi yesterday. Photo: courtesy
"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."
Earlier in the morning, Modi visited Rajghat, the memorial of India's Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, and paid homage to him.
Among other foreign leaders present at the oath-taking event were Prime Ministers Sushil Koirala (Nepal) and Tshering Tobgay (Bhutan) and Presidents Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan) and Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom (Maldives). Outside the SAARC, Mauritius PM Naveenchandra Ramgoolam attended the function.
This was the first time that foreign leaders attended the swearing in of an Indian Prime Minister.
India's Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, besides leaders of various other parties and chief ministers of a number of states were also present on the occasion.
Political differences were brushed aside briefly as Modi opponents, including Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda were present at the ceremony.
Top industry figures like Mukesh Ambani and his family, his brother Anil, Kumarmangalam Birla, Gautam Adani and V N Dhoot, film stars Salman Khan along with his father Salim Khan, Vivek Oberoi, Dharmendra and Anupam Kher, lyricist Javed Akthar were present along with a clutch of saffron-robed seers. Batting legend Sunil Gavaskar was also present.
The oath-taking over, the foreign leaders, Modi and his ministerial colleagues were hosted a dinner by President Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Modi's invite to Saarc leaders and their presence in his swearing in is viewed by political analysts as his government's decision to reset India's neighbourhood policy, which had fallen into disrepair in the last three years of Congress rule, with key initiatives like the Teesta water-sharing deal and implementation of Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh remaining stalled.
Modi will tomorrow meet all Saarc leaders, including Nawaz Sharif and Shirin Chaudhury, separately at Hyderabad House.
The swearing-in ceremony of Modi was held amidst a massive ground-to-air security arrangement, involving over ten thousand security personnel, in the Indian capital due to the presence of foreign leaders with high threat perception like Pakistan prime minister and the Sri Lankan and Afghan presidents.
All roads and offices around Rashtrapati Bhavan atop the Raisina Hills were shut after 1 pm while snipers from the army and elite National Security Guard were deployed on rooftops and at other vantage points around the area.
The BJP won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections held between April and May this year, securing 282 seats on its own, the first time that a single party had obtained a majority in the 543-member Lok Sabha. The BJP and its NDA allies together have a strength of 336 in the newly-elected Lok Sabha.