Ahmedabad(PTI): Narendra Modi, who powered BJP to an emphatic victory in Gujarat, was today sworn in as Chief Minister for the fourth time at the head of a 17-member ministry, in a ceremony boycotted by Opposition Congress and NDA ally JD(U).
Modi was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Kamla Beniwal at a public ceremony marked by the presence of a galaxy of top BJP leaders and allies as also conspicuous absence of any representative of key alliance partner JD(U) and Opposition Congress.
Modi, who became Chief Minister for the first time in 2001 and again in 2002 and 2007, was sworn in along with seven ministers of Cabinet rank and nine Ministers of State.
Nitin Patel, Anandi Patel, Raman Vora, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Saurabh Patel, Ganpat Vasawa, Babhbhai Bokhiariya took oath as Cabinet ministers, while Purshottam Solanki, Parbat Patel, Vasuben Trivedi, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, Liladhar Vaghela, Rajnikant Patel, Govind Patel, Nanubhai Vanani and Jayanti Kavadiya were sworn in as Ministers of State.
“Took oath as Guj’s CM for the 4th time! A memorable day. I assure we will live upto the faith people have reposed in us,” Modi tweeted after the ceremony.
“My thanks to people, senior leaders & spiritual leaders who graced the occasion & to all who watched the event live,” Modi said on microblogging site Twitter.
In a show of unity amid lack of clarity over who would be BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 general elections, the party’s top leadership including veteran L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, its leaders in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his Chhattisgarh and Karnataka counterparts Raman Singh and Jagdish Shettar were present.
The presence of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa added grist to speculation about a possible realignment of her AIADMK with BJP-led NDA. Jayalalithaa is considered close to Modi, who had also attended her swearing-in ceremony when AIADMK returned to power.
Also in attendance were Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chautala, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, his cousin and MNS chief Raj Thackeray and RPI leader Ramdas Athawale among others.
In an indication that Modi, despite his hat-trick of electoral triumphs remains a polarising figure, nobody from main Opposition Congress, Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party or key ally JD(U) was present.
As expected, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been keeping distance from Modi, as also his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP, were conspicuous by their absence. However, Bihar BJP president C P Thakur attended the ceremony.
JD(U) is running a coalition government in Bihar with BJP since November 2005.
A battery of saffron-clad sadhus and spiritual leaders were also present.
Modi’s mother Heeraben, who was seated among the dignitaries, was seen flashing the victory sign after her son took oath in Gujarati amid chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Victory be to mother India).”
After the swearing-in ceremony, Modi took a victory lap of the Sardar Patel stadium on a flower-bedecked open-top jeep as thousands of supporters cheered lustily.
Modi had on Thursday led the BJP to an emphatic victory winning 115 seats in the 182-member state assembly, just two less that the previous elections, beating the incumbency factor and a feeble Opposition challenge.
Prominent faces missing from the council of ministers included former Finance Minister Vaju Vala, a 7-time MLA from Rajkot West, former Panchayati Raj Minister Narottam Patel and former Forest and Environment Minister Mangu Patel.
Former junior ministers who did not make it this time included Jaswantsinh Bhabhor, Vasan Ahir, Ishwarsinh Patel, Jaydrathsinh Parma and Jeetu Sukhadia.
Naranpura MLA Amit Shah, Modi’s Man Friday, who had to resign as Minister of State for Home in the previous government after his arrest in the Soharabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, was also left out.
The new faces in Modi’s cabinet are Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Babubhai Bokhiariya and Ganpat Vasava, who was speaker in the outgoing assembly. Saurabh Patel was elevated to cabinet rank after serving as Minister of State in the previous government.
New junior ministers include Rajnikant Patel, Govind Patel, Nanubhai Vanani and Jayantibhai Kavadiya.
Modi’s close aide Anandi Patel was repeated as cabinet minister. Modi has rewarded two MLAs for defeating Congress stalwarts despite criminal charges against them.
Purshottam Solanki, who had defeated Congress’ Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil, is facing allegations of corruption in the Rs 400 crore fishing contract scam.
Bokhiariya, who has a murder case pending against him and is also alleged to be involved in an illegal mining case, had defeated state Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia from Porbandar.