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Armed with a decisive mandate, Narendra Modi took oath as the 15th Prime Minister of India on Monday evening. In keeping with his "minimum government, maximum governance" mantra, Modi opted for a lean team of 45 ministers ó 23 Cabinet ministers, 10 ministers of state with independent charge and 12 ministers of state. The average age of the Cabinet is 60 years.
Ten minutes after 6 pm, Modi, 63, was sworn into office by President Pranab Mukherjee at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, in the presence of a galaxy of dignitaries including heads of SAARC countries like Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
BJP president Rajnath Singh took oath after Modi, followed by Sushma Swaraj and then Arun Jaitley, indicating the pecking order in the new Cabinet. The Prime Minister and the three senior ministers will comprise the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). All four will sit in the all-powerful CCS for the first time. While Singh, Swaraj and Jaitley were ministers in the AB Vajpayee government, they did not hold the crucial defence, external affairs and home portfolios.
As expected, the BJP retained most of the Cabinet berths, giving only four to its allies ó LJP's Ram Vilas Paswan, Shiv Sena's Anant Geete, TDP's Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Akali Dal's Harsimrat Kaur Badal. Among the other senior BJP leaders who have been included in the Cabinet are Nitin Gadkari, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, Uma Bharti, Gopinath Munde, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Najma Heptullah, the lone Muslim face.
This is the smallest government to take oath in the last 15 years. While Manmohan Singh led a 67-member Council of Ministers in his first term, his team increased to 78 ministers in UPA-II. Former Prime Minister Vajpayee was sworn in with 71 ministers in 1999.
To keep his team small, Modi has gone in for radical restructuring of ministries, merging many of them. For instance, the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution and food processing industries, carved out of the agriculture ministry, are set to be reunited. Reintegration of the ministry of overseas Indian affairs with the ministry of external affairs is also on the cards.
Among the big states, Rajasthan, where the BJP won all 25 Lok Sabha seats, got only one ministerial berth. Modi ignored the four people whose names were recommended by chief minister Vasundhara Raje for inclusion in the ministry, including her son Dushyant Singh.