Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his second term in office on Thursday after he was administered the oath of secrecy, along with his Council of Ministers, in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, exactly a week after he led the BJP and its allies to a decisive victory in the Lok Sabha elections.
Ending speculation, BJP president Amit Shah joined the new government but the surprise induction was that of former foreign secretary S Jaishankar who had retired and joined the Tata Group.
Former Karnataka chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda, who was minister for law and then statistics and programme implementation in the previous government, was a surprise fourth in the order of protocol at the swearing-in ceremony.
Also in the top five was Nitin Gadkari, former minister for surface transport and highways. While former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who did not contest the elections, was dropped from the council of ministers, Rajnath Singh and Nirmala Sitharaman retained ministerial berths.
In all, 22 ministers of the previous Cabinet were dropped, among them Uma Bharati, Maneka Gandhi, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and SS Ahluwalia.
Just hours before the oath-taking ceremony, confirmation of Shah joining the Cabinet came from Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani who tweeted a congratulatory message: “Had a courtesy meeting with our mentor Amit Shah and gave my best wishes to him on his inclusion as a strong member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers.”
Shah had joined the meeting Modi held at his residence at 4.30 pm with people selected for ministerial berths.
While new faces in the Cabinet include Prahlad Joshi from Karnataka and Mahendra Nath Pandey from UP, members of the previous government retained include Narendra Singh Tomar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Thawarchand Gehlot, Smriti Irani, Harsh Vardhan, Prakash Javdekar, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Giriraj Singh and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
From the allies, Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP, Harsimrat Kaur Badal of Shiromani Akali Dal, Arvind Samant of Shiv Sena were inducted into the Cabinet, while the JD (U) of Nitish Kumar stayed away from being part of the Council of Ministers.
The swearing-in ceremony in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan was a grand affair with about 8,000 guests, including leaders from BIMSTEC countries, Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, Chief Ministers, corporate honchos and film stars.