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Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Delhi geared up to crown 'PM Modi' today 05-26

New Delhi geared up to crown 'PM Modi' today










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When the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Narendra Modi and his ministers take oath of office in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday, the ceremony to mark the occasion will not only be memorable but quite different from earlier swearing-in ceremonies.










In 1990, Chandra Shekhar, the eighth prime minister of India, was the first to bring oath-taking out of the majestic Ashoka Hall and among the people. Later, taking a leaf out of that book, Atal Bihari Vajpayee also held his oath-taking in the forecourt.

Attractive though it might sound, such events have pitfalls, too. Since these are planned right down to the last minute, such ceremonies are security agencies' nightmare - more this time as the prime ministers and presidents of all neighbouring countries, including Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa and Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif, are attending the event with their delegations.

In preparation, all offices around Rashtrapati Bhavan, including the North and South Blocks, have declared a half day on Monday. The result: Bureaucrats have booked most golf courses in the area from 2 pm to celebrate the unexpected holiday.

The members of Parliament attending the function have been told they cannot bring their spouses - there are around 740 MPs from both Houses of Parliament and this number will swell to 1,400 if they come in couples. The ministers to be sworn in - there is no clarity on the number or identity of these people - will have to restrict the number of their guests to four each.

All traffic will be diverted in the heart of Lutyens Delhi till late evening, as the swearing-in will be followed by tea and, later, dinner. The number of those attending could go above 3,000, with BJP eager to make this a historic affair. Apart from Sharif and Rajapaksa, the dignitaries to be present include Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay, Nepal PM Sushil Koirala and the Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Bangladesh will be represented by Speaker Shirin Chaudhury. Also, invitations have gone out to all Heads of Mission and it is unlikely even one will pass up the opportunity to be present. Chairs have been laid out in a semi-circular pattern facing the dais where the ceremony will take place. Since it will be outdoors, arrangements have also been made for pedestal fans and water-proof shamianas.

President Pranab Mukherjee will host tea for all invitees and dinner for 100 select guests, including the foreign dignitaries and the new council of ministers.

Sources disclosed the President had given directions to his secretariat that the "dignity" of the President's house must be maintained at all times.

In 2009, Manmohan Singh had been sworn in for a second term as prime minister with a Cabinet of 19 ministers. The ceremony on that occasion was a formal one at Ashoka Hall, with no foreign dignitaries present and the then President, Pratibha Patil, administering the oath.

Monday's ceremony, by contrast, will be the largest ever swearing-in at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The other venue, Durbar Hall, where the country's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru was sworn in, has been sparingly used.

The guest list, however, has already ruffled a few feathers in Tamil Nadu, where Chief Minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa is likely to stay away from the ceremony. Also, DMDK's Vaiko has declared he will protest the presence of the Sri Lankan President. Apart from all the newly-elected MPs, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will attend the ceremony, and so will outgoing prime minister Singh.