National News

NDA II to take oath today, all eyes on Modi’s new team

Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi will be sworn in on Thursday for his second term at the helm of a coalition government that will be minus outgoing finance minister Arun Jaitley, in a ceremony attended by 6,000 invitees, including foreign dignitaries, allies and adversaries.

Efforts towards government formation were in full swing with Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah holding a three-hour meeting on Wednesday after four hours of discussions the previous day on the allocation of cabinet positions.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, her son and Congress president Rahul Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh will be in attendance at the 7pm swearing-in ceremony on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, where Modi and his cabinet colleagues will be administered the oaths of office and secrecy by President Ram Nath Kovind.

The Congress confirmed that Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh will be present, but in a volte-face, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee decided on Wednesday to skip the swearing-in, citing the BJP’s decision to invite relatives of 54 of its activists the ruling party says have died in political violence in West Bengal. Banerjee said there has been no political violence in the state.

The new council of ministers is expected to retain most veterans, other than Jaitley. Railways minister Piyush Goyal handled the finance portfolio in the last government when Jaitley was undergoing medical treatment, but speculation is also rife about Shah possibly moving to North Block if Modi decides to induct him in the government.

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