The occasion was ceremonial, but the atmosphere was that of a carnival, as Narendra Modi was sworn in Prime Minister before the largest-ever gathering at Rashtrapati Bhawan, which became a confluence of people as varied as Presidents, Prime Ministers, film stars, corporate and religious leaders.
Festive atmosphere at oath-taking ceremony
Never before have 4,000 people gathered in the forecourt of the majestic Presidential home as they did today, to watch the change of guard, from Manmohan Singh to the man from Gujarat, for whom the oath-taking ceremony was the culmination of a breathtaking political journey.
The heat did not deter the Modi admirers who had come hours ahead. There were a few fans to cool them, but they mostly depended on their invitation cards to generate some breeze till the sun set and made it bearable.
Before Modi arrived, his special guests from abroad – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, Nepal PM Sushil Koirala, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and other SAARC leaders – had taken their front-row seats. As each name was announced there were cheers, the loudest being reserved for the Pakistani leader.
The announcement about UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s arrival was also greeted with applause. Her son Rahul Gandhi, who led the failed Congress campaign, came with her.
Colourful Rajasthani turbans, bright sarees, politicians’ favourite kurta-pyjamas mingled with the formal suits of corporate bigwigs such as Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, the two business giants targeted by Rahul Gandhi during the campaign.
An occasional slogan of ‘Bharatmata ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ rent the air to lend a touch of informality to a very formal occasion.
The ceremony got off to a slightly late start, when President Pranab Mukherjee descended the steps of the Durbar Hall to a raised platform in the forecourt. His arrival was heralded by the buglers from atop.
Modi arrived in his favourite Scorpio SUV and was greeted by the men and women he had chosen for his Cabinet. These included BJP veterans such as the party President Rajnath Singh, past presidents Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu and senior leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
Also seated in the front row were L K Advani, the leader who has long cherished the job which is now Modi’s and another veteran and former BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi, who did not figure in the Cabinet list.
The outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur and was greeted with tepid applause. The ceremony marked the end of his 10 years in power. – PTI