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India's New Prime Minister Sworn In

May 26, 2014
Originally published on May 26, 2014 3:43 pm

Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, officially takes office as India's new prime minister in a ceremony in New Delhi that broke with the past. More than 3,000 guests witnessed the most elaborate oath-taking India has ever staged.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Narendra Modi, who swept to power in India's general election, took the oath of office today. He is India's 15th Prime Minister. More than 3,000 guests and dignitaries witnessed the most elaborate oath-taking India has ever staged. And most notably among them was Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who called it a chance to reach out to each other. NPR's Julie McCarthy begins our coverage from New Delhi.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: The courtyard of the red- and cream-colored stone palace of India's president, once home to the British viceroys, was not just the music-filled, resplendent setting for the swearing-in. It was the place India may well record as the end of one era and the beginning of another. As the army band played, the old guard filed in.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.

MCCARTHY: Narendra Modi had led the most successful assault on Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty since India's independence. Today, the 63-year-old Modi launched India on a new course, while paying respects to India's best known independence icon, Mahatma Gandhi. He visited Gandhi's memorial early this morning. Shortly after six P.M., Modi entered the presidential courtyard to the roar of applause. Wearing his trademark long-tailed shirt, Modi walked past lancers in white uniforms and black turbans to sit on a dais alongside his ministers. He then stepped forward to take the oath as prime minister

NARENDRA MODI: (Foriegn language spoken).

MCCARTHY: Narendra Modi swore to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India. I will do right, he said, to all manner of people, in accordance with the Constitution, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will. With that, the man who was thought too divisive to lead the world's biggest democracy became its prime minister. Critics fear that Modi, a Hindu nationalist, may exacerbate India's religious divides. Later, a statement issued on the prime minister's website urged Indians to dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that is actively engaged with the global community. Modi wasted no time in engaging that community, giving India's archrival Pakistan an honored place at his oath taking. Pakistani leader Nawaz Sharif overcame opposition at home to attend and was seated on the right hand of the outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh. Hindustan Times foreign editor Pramit Pal Chaudhuri says there's never been a foreign dignitary at an Indian inauguration.

PRAMIT PAL CHAUDHURI: That alone transformed it into something unusual. So, yes, he's ticked off a lot of boxes on this. But he continues to, therefore, raise expectations.

MCCARTHY: Modi meets Sharif tomorrow in what's being called a micro-summit, where the expectations are not for a breakthrough, but a new beginning. Julie McCarthy. NPR News. New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.