Six months of feverish speculation finally ended on Tuesday evening, not with a big bang, but with whispers and whimpers. The deck of cards was shuffled adroitly, but there were no big surprises.
The new cabinet ministers predictably beamed and quietly soaked in the glory; the fall guys were either missing or moping in some dark corner.
The rituals played out by the clock. The much-awaited oath-taking ceremony of four cabinet ministers and seven ministers of state started at 5 p.m. sharp in the chandeliered Ashoka Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the imposing sandstone presidential palace in the heart of Lutyen's Delhi.
After the red-and-gold uniformed Presidential Body Guards played the national anthem, President Pratibha Patil administered the oath to new ministers, who pledged to discharge their duties without fear or favour.
V. Kishore Chandra Deo, the veteran Congress politician from Andhra Pradesh, was the first one to take the oath in English. When his name was called out, there was much appreciative clapping that showed that a stalwart was finally being given his due.
Each of the new ministers and those who were elevated to the cabinet rank looked upbeat, and bowed to the Big Two - Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - after taking the oath. Charan Das Mahant, the only Congress Lok Sabha member from Chattisgarh, was so moved by his new ministerial role that he even touched the feet of Sonia Gandhi before going back to his seat.
Image: President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pose for a group photo with the new ministers during a swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Tuesday.