Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (right) takes the oath of office as India's Prime Minister at the President house in New Delhi on May 30, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: In a glittering ceremony at the forecourt of the majestic President House, President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday administered the oath of office and secrecy to Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah, senior party leaders Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani and others.

While Modi was sworn in as PM for a second consecutive term, Shah emerged from the backstage to take centre stage as a minister in the new government. He is widely known as the man who directed the saffron party’s ascent to its zenith.

Top opposition leaders, including former PM Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, corporate honchos, film stars, Chief Ministers (CMs) of various states and a galaxy of leaders from Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries were part of the nearly 8,000 guests at the grand ceremony.

A nine-time Parliamentarian Sushma Swaraj, who did not contest the election citing health reasons, was kept out of the cabinet. She was earlier a Parliamentarian from Vidisha.

Being one of the best orators in Parliament, it was speculated that the party would bring her back through Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament). In 2016, Swaraj was forced to take a break for months because of kidney transplant.

Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari and D.V. Sadanand Gowda occupied the first four seats next to that of Prime Minister Modi in the front row.

Former Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was a surprise inclusion in the government and was seated on the dais in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Others seated in the front row included Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Ram Vilas Paswan, Narendra Singh Tomar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Harsimrat Kaur Badal. Hardeep Singh Puri, Giriraj Singh and Kiren Rijiju were also on the dais.

Some of the key ministers in the previous Modi government, including Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Maneka Gandhi were not part of the new council of ministers.

Top opposition leaders including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, corporate honchos, film stars, several chief ministers including Devendra Fadnavis, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar and Yogi Adityanath and a galaxy of leaders from Bimstec countries were part of the nearly 8,000 guests at the ceremony.

Former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar also took oath as a cabinet minister. Jaishankar was FS from January 2015 to January 2018 and has previously held positions like the High Commissioner to Singapore, ambassador to China and the United States of America.

Meanwhile, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar announced that his party Janata Dal (United) will not be a part of the Modi government.

“They wanted only one person from my party in the cabinet, so it would have been just symbolic participation. We informed them that it is OK we do not need it. It is not a big issue, we are fully in BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and not upset at all. We are working together, no confusion,” Kumar told media.

Earlier in the day, Modi held a final round of consultations with Shah to give shape to his council of ministers before sending the list to President Kovind.

Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, PM Modi visited the memorials of Mahatma Gandhi and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, where he paid tributes to them.

The portfolio distribution and list of Ministers of State is yet to be announced.