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Central & South Asia
Indian PM begins second term
Cabinet picks yet to be assigned posts as Manmohan Singh takes oath for five-year term.
Last Modified: 22 May 2009 17:34 GMT

At least 428 million Indians voted in the world's largest democratic exercise  [AFP]

Manmohan Singh has been sworn in as India's prime minister for a second five-year term.

The ceremony took place on Friday at the presidential place in New Delhi, the capital.

Singh was the governing Congress party's unanimous choice for the job after it won the recent general election.

He swore to "preserve, protect and defend the constitution," and to "devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of India."

Al Jazeera's Prera Suri, reporting from New Delhi, said: "Singh is the only non-Gandhi to be re-elected after Jawaharlal Nehru [India's first prime minister] for a second term in office.

"Having said that, the big challenges that Singh faces are all too clear. India's neighbourhood is witnessing political instablity, with developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan along with political uncertainty in Sri Lanka and Nepal as well."

Pranab Mukherjee, the foreign minister, AK Antony, the defence minister, and Palaniappan Chidambaram, the interior minister, were among the few who took the oath of office at the ceremony.

A statement issued by the prime minister's office said that several more were to be swoen in on Tuesday in a second ceremony.

The delay was to allow the Congress time to complete coalition negotiations with some of its allies.

Economy priority

"The first task is to restore the economy and its growth momentum," Singh said  after the ceremony.

During his second term, Singh will have to decide how much to prioritise reforms such as labour laws and privatisations over pressure to spend more on social programmes that helped Congress win the election.

Vijay Dutt, the UK bureau chief for The Hindustan Times, told Al Jazeera: "As far as the recession is concerned, I think Singh is better placed than before. The blockade caused by the left will no longer be there so he can push for economic reform much faster.

"Singh is a very able economist and he has the assistance of people who know exactly how to meet global recession challenges and keep up to pace with modernisation trends in a global economy."

The Indian elections, the world's largest democratic exercise, was marked by a turnout of 428 million people.

Singh, 76, a former economist, was thrust into the position of prime minister in 2004 when Sonia Gandhi, the Congress chairman, declined the position and picked him.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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