South Asia News
59 ministers sworn in to complete India's new government
May 28, 2009, 19:32 GMT
New Delhi - Indian President Pratibha Patil on Thursday administered the oaths of office to 59 new ministers, completing the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
The ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi after the alliance, led by the Indian National Congress party, recorded a resounding victory in month-long national elections.
Nineteen cabinet ministers were sworn in with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week. Thursday's additions, consisting of 14 cabinet ministers and 45 junior ministers, brought the council of ministers to 79.
Singh's cabinet is described as a blend of young and old representing various castes, religions and regions of the country.
The swearing-in followed days of intense negotiations over including leaders of key UPA constituents.
Singh, the second Indian leader after Jawaharlal Nehru to be sworn in as prime minister for a second term after completing a full first term in office, and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi were present at the ceremony.
'It is an energetic cabinet - a mixture of experience and youthful energy,' Singh told reporters after the ceremony.
Gandhi confessed that forming the cabinet was a difficult task. 'It took a lot of managing,' she said.
The cabinet includes 19 ministers from UPA allies: seven each from the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham and Trinamool Congress party, three from the Nationalist Congress Party and one each from the Muslim League and National Conference.
As portfolios were distributed by the government later Thursday, Anand Sharma, was named the country's trade minister, a crucial post as India pushes the agenda of the developing world at the Doha round of global trade talks.
Formerly a junior foreign affairs minister, Sharma is an articulate leader, who defended India's controversial nuclear pact with the United States last year.
A government statement said Murli Deora was reappointed petroleum minister and Kamal Nath, trade minister in the first UPA term, will minister for road transport and highways. A Raja and Praful Patel will continue in their positions as telecom and aviation minister respectively.
The new cabinet ministers also include three former chief ministers - Vilasrao Deshmukh, Farooq Abdullah and Virbhadra Singh - and 29 newcomers.
Prominent among the new faces was Shashi Tharoor, a former United Nations diplomat, who was named junior foreign minister. Tharoor was India's candidate for the post of secretary general in 2006.
Agatha Sangma, 28, a lawmaker from the northeastern state of Meghalaya, is the youngest of Singh's ministers.
Other young ministers included Congress' Jyotiraditya Scindia, 38; Sachin Pilot, 31; and Jitin Prasada, 36.
The number of young ministers brought down the average age of the UPA cabinet to 62 from 66 in the last government.
Rahul Gandhi, the rising star of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, was not named to a ministry, contrary to rumours that the 38-year-old, who is considered the architect of the party's election win, could be given a cabinet position.
Singh had on Saturday allotted the key ministries in his cabinet to senior Congress leaders, including Pranab Mukherjee as the country's finance minister and SM Krishna as foreign minister.
AK Antony has been retained as the defence minister and P Chidambaram as home minister.
Singh's UPA swept to power in five-phase general elections held in April and May, securing enough seats to form a stable government with just a handful of allies.
The performance of the Congress party - which bagged 206 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha, or lower house, of Parliament - was its best since 1991. The rival National Democratic Alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, secured 158 seats.
After the election victory, Singh drew up a 100-day action plan for his government and emphasized its key priority would be economic revival and inclusive growth.
The Indian elections, the world's largest democratic exercise, saw a turnout of 428 million people, a little less than the combined populations of the United States and Russia, in polling for which 2.1 million security personnel were deployed.
The conduct of the elections was largely successful although nearly 50 people lost their lives, the majority in Maoist rebel violence.