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New Indian ministers sworn in
Prime minister Manmohan Singh expands his cabinet at ceremony in New Delhi.
Last Modified: 28 May 2009 11:08 GMT
Gandhi, left, and Singh have handpicked
ministers from the Congress party [Reuters]

Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, has added new members to his week-old cabinet, rewarding loyal coalition allies with ministerial posts.

Fifty-nine new ministers were sworn in on Thursday, joining 19 others who took the oath of office on Friday - completing the formation of the new government and ending days of political manoeuvring since the Congress-led coalition swept to victory.

Pratibha Patil, India's president, administered the oath to the ministers at a ceremony in the capital, New Delhi.

The delay came as Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the leader of his Congress party, grappled with putting together a group that satisfied all the coalition partners and gave due representation to allied parties.

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When votes were counted on May 16 after the marathon five-phase general election, Congress and its allies had 262 seats in parliament, compared with the BJP-led opposition alliance's 158.

Congress had campaigned on a poverty-alleviation platform for India's rural millions, steering the country through an economic downturn and ensuring growth as its main priorities.

Large cabinet

The new council of ministers comprises 78 members, a mix of veteran politicians and several young faces.

Among those who were sworn in on Thursday are Farooq Abdullah, the former chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Agatha Sangma, 28, elected from the northeastern state of Meghalaya, was the youngest federal minister to be sworn in.

Shashi Tharoor, the former UN undersecretary general, was also among the new ministers sworn in.

Last Friday, Singh and a 19-member cabinet took the oath of office from Patil at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, in Delhi.

With 79 members, "this is the biggest cabinet in a decade," Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a political analyst, said.

Singh is the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to be returned to office following a full five-year term.

Source:
Agencies
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