P.V. Narasimha Rao, a Gandhi family loyalist, was sworn in Friday as India's ninth prime minister. He named a top economist to his Cabinet to confront India's looming debt crisis.
Manmohan Singh, who has headed India's federal bank and was negotiating a loan from the World Bank to tide over a $63-billion foreign debt, was among 54 Cabinet ministers sworn in along with Rao.
Rao, a former foreign minister who replaced slain former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as head of the Congress-I Party, is the first prime minister from southern India.
But the 69-year-old linguist spoke Hindi, the language of the politically dominant north, as President Ramaswami Venkataraman administered the oath of office in the ornate Ashoka Hall of the presidential palace. Most of the other ministers took their oaths in English.
Singh, a senior bureaucrat, was the only unexpected Cabinet appointment. Rao named about one-quarter of the Congress-I Party members in Parliament to his Cabinet, which reflects the religious and ethnic diversity of this vast nation.
The ministers include five Muslims, at least two Christians and a Sikh--the economist Singh. Of India's 844 million people, 82% are Hindus, 11% are Muslims, 2.5% are Christians and 2% Sikhs.
Six women also were named. One is Sheila Kaul, the 76-year-old aunt of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1984.
Sharad Pawar, who had challenged Rao for the prime minister's post, is to be sworn in later.
Pawar, a Bombay-based politician, withdrew from the race to clear the way for Rao to be unanimously selected. He will resign as the chief minister of Maharashtra, the western state's top elected official, before joining the Cabinet, Press Trust of India reported.