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India crowned Narendra Modi its Prime Minister on Monday at a glittering event attended by leaders from neighbouring countries, top politicians and holy men, and replete with symbolism and grandeur.
The 63-year-old Modi, neatly attired in a beige Nehru jacket, was sworn in by President Pranab Mukherjee 10 days after leading the National Democratic Alliance to a landslide win in the world’s biggest election.
The former RSS pracharak, who sold tea at a railway station as a young boy, showed no signs of emotion or nerves as he read out the oath of secrecy and signed the register, though there appeared to be genuine warmth in the greetings he exchanged with the President.
Narendra Modi takes charge as Prime Minister
He had strode in as PM-designate at 6pm to a roar of “Modi, Modi”, incongruous to the solemnity of the occasion but underlining the rock-star status that he has achieved over the past few months.
“Together we will script a glorious future for India,” Modi said in a message on the PMO website that popped up minutes after he was sworn in.
Forty-five other members of the council of ministers were also sworn in, led by Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
The youngest minister will be 38-year-old Smriti Irani, who once served at a McDonald’s outlet, and the oldest, 74-year-old Najma Heptulla, who is the only Muslim in the group.
Video: Modi takes oath as Prime Minister
The audience of more than 4,000 was packed into the magnificent forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan, and included Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif — sitting next to outgoing PM Manmohan Singh — Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Nepal PM Sushil Koirala, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former presidents Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil and former PM Deve Gowda.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, blamed by some for the party’s disastrous showing at the polls, found a place only in the second row. BJP patriarch LK Advani, effectively sidelined by Modi during the campaign, was seated among the foreign dignatories.
The celebrity roster included actors Salman Khan and Dharmendra and cricketer Sunil Gavaskar. Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar had a front-row view.
Two of India’s richest men, the Ambani brothers, were both in attendance, as were other tycoons Shashi Ruia and Gautam Adani.
White, so beloved of Indian politicians, was the dominant colour, but was interrupted by considerable doses of saffron, the colour of Hindutva.
Modi’s mother, 92-year-old Hiraben, couldn’t make the trip, but watched on television from Gandhinagar. The rest of the family was also conspicuous by its absence.