Modi to be sworn in as India’s new PM

Statements hint at smaller central government as South Asian leaders prepare to attend formal inauguration ceremony.

Modi paid homage at the memorial of iconic freedom movement leader Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi [AFP]

Narendra Modi, who led India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory in the recent national elections, will be sworn in as country’s new prime minister in a ceremony to be attended by the leaders of neighbouring South Asian countries.

The verdict handed Modi, 63, a powerful mandate to revive India’s stagnant economy and implement a more assertive foreign policy after 10 years of left-leaning Congress party rule.

The Prime Minister-designate paid homage at the memorial of iconic freedom movement leader Mahatma Gandhi on Monday in New Delhi before the inauguration.

Leaders from countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka were seen arriving in New Delhi on Monday morning.

Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in a first bold step aimed at mending strained ties between the neighbours.

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The Pakistani prime minister said he was “carrying a message of peace from Pakistan”, Times of India newspaper reported.

Sharif, who has hailed Modi’s “impressive victory”, is attending the oath-taking ceremony along with all heads of government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which includes Pakistan.

“Great having leaders from SAARC nations & Mauritius join us during the ceremony. Their presence will make the occasion more memorable,” Modi said on Twitter on Sunday.

Meanwhile, president Sonia Gandhi of the defeated Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, and her son the party vice president Rahul Gandhi, and the outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were seen talking to BJP leaders at the ceremony.

Modi, the son of a tea-stall owner, secured the biggest majority in 30 years at the election, trouncing the Congress on a promise of reviving manufacturing and investment to create millions of jobs.

Local media reports said that Modi had indicated that he would have smaller government than the outgoing one.

In a statement and messages on Twitter issued late on Sunday night, Modi indicated “unprecedented” changes in ministry formation, with “the top layers downsized”.

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“Focus is on convergence in the activities of various ministries where one cabinet minister will be heading a cluster of ministries working in complimentary sectors,” the statement said, arguing that it was necessary for Modi’s dictum of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. 

“Mr Modi is eventually aiming at smart governance where the top layers of government will be downsized and there would be expansion at the grass-root level,” the statement issued from Gujarat Bhawan said, while also providing an official account of deliberations over the last few days on government formation.

Source: News Agencies