The journey begins now for Modi and his team

This evening, Narendra Modi and his council of ministers will take the oath of office and secrecy from the President in the presence of about 4,000-odd invitees, who include foreign dignitaries, heads of government, eminent citizens and common Indians.

As the 14th Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Narendra Modi will take this oath in Hindi or English: I, Narendra Modi, do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge my duties as Prime Minister for the Union and that I will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.

An artist in Amritsar arranges paper cups in the form of a teacup, and gives the PM-designate’s name which he spells as 'Narinder' a Punjabi flavour. PIC/PTI
An artist in Amritsar arranges paper cups in the form of a teacup, and gives the PM-designate’s name which he spells as 'Narinder' a Punjabi flavour. PIC/PTI

And without a break, the new Prime Minister will continue with the second part of the oath which is the oath of secrecy: I, Narendra Modi, do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person or persons any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as Prime Minister for the Union except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as such minister.

The Prime Minister will then greet the President and he will then be escorted to a table where he will sign his name as the Prime Minister of India. The solemnity and dignity of the occasion is a memory to treasure for all the participants. It will not escape Narendra Modi either: that he is now the Prime Minister of a billion plus Indians, a majority of whom have reposed their faith in him to lead the nation for the next five years. It is a document of trust that Mr Modi signs today.

The dignified and sombre ceremony is usually conducted inside the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan but like twice earlier, it will be conducted outdoors today. The swearing-in ceremonies of Prime Ministers Chandrashekar and Vajpayee were also held in the forecourt of the majestic Presidential Estate.

Unlike in the US, the oath that the Prime Minister and ministers take today is not done by holding one hand on any religious text, nor do their respective spouses stand beside them when they take their oath. The most pious book for those who take the oath of office and secrecy is the Constitution of India. They owe allegiance to it and they will be guided by this document. They have to perform their duties and responsibilities as per the guidelines of this book alone.

This time, as in most previous occasions, there is suspense about the number of people who will take the oath along with the Prime Minister. Nobody is quite sure who is getting which portfolio either. The city has been abuzz with rumours with power brokers knocking on every door to push names or ferret out information. This happens every five years.

There are times when the Rashtrapati Bhavan is told to add two or more chairs to the rows where the new cabinet sits. Names are added and dropped till the last few hours. Anxiety, despair and happiness are emotions that run riot in the days preceding the oath taking ceremony. Ceremonial attire, whether sherwanis, silk sarees or dhoti kurtas are ironed and kept ready, just in case that phone call comes announcing that their name is in The List.

In the audience will be former Prime Ministers: Deve Gowda and Dr Manmohan Singh, and Congress President Sonia and her son, Rahul Gandhi. The bitterness and acrimony of the campaign should now be put behind and it is time to begin afresh. Nation building is an onerous task and the Prime Minister would need the support of his party as well as the opposition to take the country forward. It is the job of the opposition parties and the media to hold the ruling party, including the PM to his promises.

Constructive criticism is something every PM should not just accept but appreciate and act upon. With the kind of majority that the BJP has in the Lok Sabha, they can push ahead full steam, ignoring the feeble voices of the weak opposition. However a mature leadership knows the demerits of brute action, unmindful of checks and balances. So here’s to a new beginning. Good luck.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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