On the evening of May 30, the same day that Indians in Trinidad and Tobago celebrated their Arrival (in 1845) in what is known as Indian Arrival Day (IAD), Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second term as India’s Prime Minister. This makes him the first politician since Indira Gandhi (in 1971) and her father Jawaharlal Nehru to win back to back elections as PM.
Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won a landslide victory (303 seats out of 543) in election held between April 11 and May 19. The BJP’s alliance partners won an additional 51 seats. This writer predicted a Modi victory in surveys he conducted in India preceding and during the election campaign. Modi’s opponent, the Congress managed only 52 seats, a marginal improvement over 2014 when the party won 44 seats. In 2009, Congress won 205 seats.
The swearing in of Modi and his cabinet colleagues took place at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (a colonial era mansion that is the Presidential secretariat) in the presence of some 8,000 invited guests, including heads of governments, Bollywood stars, sports personalities, and national politicians. In addition to Modi, 57 other Ministers were sworn in. Among the Ministers are new and old faces. Modi and his council of ministers were administered the oath of secrecy by President Ram Nath Kovind.
One notable absence from the ceremony was Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan who was not invited; in 2014, then PM Nawaz Sharief was invited with other regional leaders to Modi’s swearing in as PM. Among Bollywood personalities were Karan Johar, Rajinikanth and Kangana Ranaut. Among stars, Hema Malini and Sunny Deol are elected MPs along with cricketer Gautam Gambhir. Hema is serving her second term as an elected MP. In addition, she served a six year term as a nominated MP. Among other guests at the ceremony were former PM Manmohan Singh. Sonia Gandhi (Chair of the opposition alliance known as UPA), and Rahul Gandhi (leader of Congress) and a host of senior figures from the Congress and other parties. Also present were Senior Leaders, former MPs and Presidents of BJP LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. The Chief Ministers and Governors of several states were also present at the function.
Ahead of the glittering swearing-in ceremony, PM Modi visited the memorials of Mahatma Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (first PM of the BJP who served three terms as PM), where he paid tributes to the late leaders.
Modi, aged 68, is the first leader since Indira Gandhi in 1971, to win re-election with a majority of seats in parliament. Modi retained his seat of (holy) Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, by a margin of nearly half a million votes. The election campaign was billed as a referendum on Modi. He ran a campaign centered around his personal image and national security after Pakistan linked terrorists killed fifty Indian security personnel. Modi launched surgical strikes against Pakistan winning widespread approval throughout India.
After Modi was sworn in, the large audience rose from their seats and applauded enthusiastically. The swearing in of other Ministers immediately followed Modi. Other Ministers also received loud cheers BJP president Amit Shah and former President Rajnath Singh and Road Transport Minister Nithin Gadkari. Three prominent names were missing from the swearing in line up – Sushma Swaraj (Foreign Minister) and Arun Jaitley (Finance) both of who declined Ministries, and Maneka Gandhi who was not offered a Ministry. Some 21 other Ministers were dropped including those who lost their seats. On surprise was the induction of former Foreign Secretary Jaishankar into the cabinet making him the first to be promoted to a cabinet position. Every ally partner party of the BJP was given a Ministry with a few allies also given a junior ministerial position. But the Janata Dal United party (of Bihar) declined the one senior and one junior ministerial position demanding more. The BJP and JDU are likely to work out their differences soon.