RTTNews - India's 20-member Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) cabinet led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been sworn in.

President Pratibha Patil administered the oath of office and secrecy to Dr. Singh and his council of ministers at a ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, in the capital New Delhi Friday evening, local time.

The core cabinet, comprising veteran politicians, will be expanded in the next few days, with ministers of state as well as those junior ministers who will hold independent charge of their portfolios, the Prime Minster's Office said in a statement.

The Cabinet-rank ministers sworn in are: Pranab Mukherji, Sharad Pawar, A.K. Antony, Kamal Nath, P.Chidambaram, Mamata Bannerji, S.M. Krishna, Meera Kumar, Murali Deora, Kapil Sibal, Ambika Soni, Gulam Nabi Azad, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Veerappa Moily, S. Jaipal Reddy, Vayalar Ravi, Bijoy Krishna Handique, Anand Sharma and C.P. Joshi.

Their portfolios will be allotted over the week-end.

Manmohan Singh, who assumes the prime ministership of the largest democracy in the world for a second consecutive term, retained key ministers of his previous cabinet: Pranab Mukherji, finance minister; P. Chidambaram, home minister, A.K. Antony, defense minister, and S. Jaipal Reddy, Urban Development Minister.

Among the new entrants are Mamata Banerjee, the fire-brand leader of the coalition partner Trinamool Congress; C.P. Joshi, the Congress party president in the north-west border state of Rajasthan, Veerappa Moily, the All India Congress Committee general secretary and S.M. Krishna, former chief minister of the south Indian state of Karnataka.

Anand Sharma and Handique, former ministers of state, were promoted to the cabinet level.

The core cabinet includes three women - Mamata Banerjee, Ambika Soni and Meera Kumar - all former ministers. One-third representation for women in parliament has long been a live issue in this South Asian country.

Human resource development minister in the preceding ministry Arjun Singh has been dropped from the cabinet, which many party insiders attribute to his poor health.

Wednesday, the President appointed Dr Singh, leader of the largest party in the lower house of Indian parliament, as the Prime Minister, and asked him to suggest members for the new Council of Ministers.

The 76-year-old economist-turned-politician is the second Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to have been returned to power after a full five-year term.

The Indian National Congress (INC) party, along with its allies, won a mandate in the recent polls, and Dr. Singh has emerged politically stronger.

Singh, a mild-mannered former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India with a reputation for integrity, was thrust into the position of prime minister in 2004 when the Italian-born Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi declined the position and picked him.

Manmohan Singh underwent a heart surgery earlier this year.

He is leading an apparently less-complicated coalition this time, without the likes of leftist parties, which voted against the government on a bill over the civilian nuclear deal with the U.S.

The third largest coalition partner of UPA, the 18-member-strong Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (DMK), confined to Tamil Nadu, did not join the council of ministers, with an apparent stalemate being reached in the talks over its share of ministerial posts.

The party said its members of parliament would not join the ministry but would support the coalition from outside, till its demands for posts were met.

The move is seen as the first set-back to the coalition, but political observers say it is unlikely to pose a serious threat to the coalition, which now has an effective strength of 322 in the 543-member lower house after the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) sent letters of support directly to the President.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, Sonia Gandhi and L K Advani, leader of the Hindu-rightist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, among others, attended the swearing-in ceremony. Prominent political leaders and the three service chiefs were also present.

Political and economic observers agree that the Indian economy would be in safe hands at a time of a global downturn. The share markets skyrocketed to record-breaking levels after the news of the Congress-led coalition's victory in the month-long election process that concluded last Saturday.

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