With World Leaders in Attendance, Stage Set for Oath Ceremony of PM Modi and His New Cabinet Today

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Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of NITI Aayog, said reforms in India's complicated labour laws will see the light of day as early as the next parliamentary session in July, when the government will place a new bill before the lower house for approval.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take oath along with a new Union council of ministers for a second term on Thursday after a massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections last week.

Top opposition leaders, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, chief ministers from several states, film personalities, and international leaders will watch President Ram Nath Kovind administer the oath of office and secrecy to the 68-year-old Modi and his ministerial colleagues in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

More than 5,600-plus guests are expected to attend the ceremony at the forecourt, which is generally used for ceremonial receptions for visiting heads of state and heads of government.

When Modi is sworn in at around 7 pm, it will be the second time he takes the oath at the forecourt of the majestic structure. In 2014, the then President Pranab Mukherjee had administered the oath to Modi in the presence of more than 3,500 guests. Chandra Shekhar in 1990 and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 were sworn in at the sprawling forecourt.

The Opposition leaders who have been invited included Janata Dal (Secular) leader and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik will not attend the ceremony.

Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had initially agreed to attend, on Wednesday said she will skip it, taking strong note of the BJP's allegation that 54 of its workers had been killed in political violence in West Bengal.

The invitation to opposition leaders is seen as Modi's move to reach out to them following a bitterly-contested election in which leaders from different parties pointed fingers at each other.

Leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries, including President of Bangladesh Abdul Hamid, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, President of Myanmar U Win Myint and Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering have already confirmed their attendance.

Thailand will be represented by Special Envoy Grisada Boonrach.

The government has also invited Kyrgyz President and current chair of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Sooronbay Jeenbekov, and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, with both of them confirming their participation.

Other than political leaders, renowned athletes including Rahul Dravid and Saina Nehwal, actors Rajinikanth and Shah Rukh Khan, and industrialists Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani and Ratan Tata have also been invited, sources said.

Others who received invitations include former sprinter PT Usha, cricketers Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath and Harbhajan Singh, badminton coach Pulella Gopichand, gymnast Dipa Karmakar, actor Kangana Ranaut, and directors Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Karan Johar.

Hectic meetings ahead of ceremony

A day before the ceremony, Modi and BJP president Amit Shah held a marathon meeting during which they reportedly finalised the broad contours of the new Cabinet that is expected to comprise new faces.

Senior members like Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Narendra Singh Tomar and Prakash Javadekar are likely to retain their positions. Irani, who defeated Rahul Gandhi in his home turf of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, is expected to get a key portfolio.

Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Javadekar, Irani, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore met Shah at his residence.

On Wednesday night, Modi also visited Finance Minister Arun Jaitley after the latter informed him about his decision to opt out of the new government on health grounds.

Capital turned into a fortress

A multi-layered security arrangement will be in place in Delhi on Thursday and more than 10,000 security personnel from the Delhi Police and paramilitary forces will be deployed.

Quick Response Teams will be deployed at several crucial spots. Snipers will be positioned on top of several important buildings that Modi will visit, including Rajghat, Sadaiv Atal Samadhi and National War Memorial.

A police official said over 2,000 security personnel will also be deployed along the route to be taken by Modi and other foreign dignitaries.

A traffic advisory issued on Wednesday said several roads in New Delhi district will be closed for movement of public between 4 pm to 9 pm on Thursday. Government offices around the Rashtrapati Bhavan — in the North Block, South Block, Rail Bhawan, Vayu Bhawan, Sena Bhawan, DRDO and Hutments — will close early at 2 pm in connection with arrangements for the swearing-in ceremony.

(With inputs from agencies)