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Spectacle and ceremony as Modi sworn in for third term, at least 8,000 invitees watch

At the grand show, almost in the nature of a US Inauguration Day, just as closely scrutinised was the guest list.

Spectacle and ceremony as Modi sworn in for third term, at least 8,000 invitees watch

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets BJP MPs and others at the swearing-in ceremony of the new Union government in New Delhi on June 9, 2024. (PTI)

NEW DELHI: Political veterans and debutants, business leaders and showbiz stars, almost everybody who is anybody in India, and many who are not... more than 8,000 people packed into the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt on Sunday as Narendra Modi was sworn in as prime minister for a third consecutive term.

As the blazing sunny day dulled into a warm evening, the swearing-in ceremony of the Modi 3.0 government unravelled against the backdrop of the magnificent sandstone dome of the columned presidential palace lit in saffron, white and green. It was the final chapter of a 44-day election that saw the Modi-led BJP come to power with 240 seats, more than 60 seats less than 2019, and now dependent on its allies in the NDA.

There were bugles, ceremonial guards, flowers and all the trappings of a grand spectacle as President Droupadi Murmu administered the oath of office. But the political overtones dominated them all. The list of potential ministers was analysed and speculated on endlessly to see which allies would be accommodated, how many from the partner NDA parties -- particularly from the TDP and the JD-U, which together won 28 seats -- which leader would be repeated, which of the newbies would get a berth.

Among the allies, JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy, HAM (Secular) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, JD(U) leader Lalan Singh and TDP's K Ram Mohan Naidu took the oath of office as ministers.

And while there were the seniors, Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar, who were sworn in, there were also fresh faces such as former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and former Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

At the grand show, almost in the nature of a US Inauguration Day, just as closely scrutinised was the guest list.

There weren’t too many opposition leaders. Congress president and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was there but several others skipped the ceremony.

Among those present were seven top leaders from India’s neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean region - Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Bhutan’s Tshering Tobgay and Seychelles Vice President Ahmed Afif.

In 2014, when Modi took the reins as prime minister for the first time, the leaders of regional grouping SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries attended the swearing-in ceremony. In 2019,it was the leaders of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries.

Also unmissable were the several religious leaders attending the ceremony.

And there was the splash of stardust with Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, Rajinikant, Akshay Kumar, Raveena Tandon and Anupam Kher. Kangana Ranaut, the BJP's debutant MP from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, was there of course.

Who came with whom, who was sitting with whom and who was dressed in what. The details were watched closely by millions on myriad screens across the country.

Industrialists Gautam Adani, his wife and brother, Mukesh Ambani and his family, including his sons and daughter, were there as were Chief Justice DY Chandrachud. Former presidents Ram Nath Kovind and Pratibha Patil also attended the event.

At the other end of the ‘power spectrum’ were people from the transgender community as well as sanitation workers and labourers, who were involved in the construction of the new parliament building. Chants of “Modi, Modi” went up as the prime minister came up the slope of the Raisina Hill.

BJP MP Anurag Thakur, who was not in the list of ministers, leading to much discussion on why and what next for him, said people who participated in 'Mann ki baat' and those involved in Vikshit Bharat Abhiyan and the NaMo app were also invited to the ceremony.

Individuals like Shehla Rashid, the one time student leader who was a ferocious critic of the government and is now a vocal supporter of it, were there too. She put out a post on X saying, “Honoured to join in, with prayers for the progress of the nation... #Modi3.0.”

As the hours passed by and dusk darkened to night, 73-year-old Modi was formally back in power. Modi equals the feat of the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who won in the 1952, 1957 and 1962 general elections.

Besides him, 30 cabinet ministers and five ministers of state with independent charge were sworn in as were the members of his council of ministers.

Another chapter in the country’s political history has opened up. Till the next election.

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