Singh Sworn in For 2nd Term as India's Prime Minister

In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken charge of the country's new Congress-led coalition government for a second term. The swearing-in ceremony took place in the shadow of a row with a key ally.     

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took the oath of office at the presidential palace in New Delhi Friday evening - nearly a week after the Congress-led coalition won a clear mandate in general elections.

Mr. Singh, 67, is only the second prime minister in the country to be returning to power after a full five-year term.  

Nineteen Cabinet ministers also took oath of office. Many of them were senior ministers in Mr. Singh's previous government such as former foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, former Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and former Defense Minister A.K. Antony.

Several of the ministers in the previous administration are expected to retain their positions in the cabinet, especially key ones such as defense. But India is likely to get a new foreign minister as Pranab Mukherjee has indicated he would like to head a ministry which involves less travel.  

The number of ministers sworn in was smaller than expected - partly because of a row with a key ally over distribution of ministries.   

The Tamil Nadu-based DMK party did not join the government because it was being given fewer ministries than it asked for.

The Congress Party and the DMK have held negotiations to break the deadlock.

Jaipal Reddy, a senior Congress leader who was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister, says allies such as DMK will likely be inducted next week when more ministers are named.

"These hiccups are inevitable, are natural, in a democracy, and at the moment we are going in only for partial Cabinet formation," he said. "We will soon go in for expansion. At that some of the problems that are faced now will have been resolved."
Analysts say the Congress Party, which has won a much stronger mandate, wants to take a firmer stand with its regional allies than it could do during its last term, when its government was more vulnerable.

The Congress-led coalition has won 262 seats - 10 seats short of a majority. But support from other parties takes its numbers to 322, well past the half way mark in the 543 member parliament.

This is expected to give Mr. Singh a relatively freer hand in implementing policies. He has indicated that good governance and spreading the benefits of economic growth to the country's poor will be a priority.  

Mr. Singh, an economist, is widely viewed as an honest leader, capable of steering the country through the current economic downturn. His other challenges will be to manage relations with Pakistan at a time when the peace process between the two countries has stalled.

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