A Big Menu for a Likely Small Govt
Modi’s swearing-in ceremony will be biggest of its kind at Rashtrapati Bhavan
Anil Ambani, Sunil Mittal, Prashant Ruia, Gautam Adani, Pawan Munjal and AM Naik will be among the 4,000 people expected to attend the grand celebrations at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday as Narendra Modi takes the oath of office as India’s new Prime Minister. The event, the biggest of its kind ever held at Rashtrapati Bhavan since the country gained independence, will see eight heads of government or their delegations in attendance as three bands provide the musical accompaniment. Invitations have been sent to spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and celebrities such as Rajnikanth, Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan, along with Vadodara tea seller Kiran Mahida, who was one of Modi’s proposers when he filed his nomination. Bachchan said he wouldn’t be attending the event.
Classical singer Channulal Mishra, who proposed Modi’s name in Varanasi, will be attending. “I want to bless him on this occasion,” he said. Secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee, Omita Paul said the event had been put together in the space of just six days, with the President having invited Modi to form the government on May 20 after the BJP parliamentary party meeting. “We usually have events where a maximum of 1,400 guests are accommodated — these are the ‘at-homes’ hosted by the President. But it is the honourable president’s firm desire that Rashtrapati Bhavan belong to the people, that more and more people be allowed to see it, that we plunged into this exercise with enthusiasm,” she said. But Paul was careful not to give anything away regarding the size of the council of ministers, such as the number of chairs earmarked for Modi and those who would be sworn in alongside him. The central part of Delhi will be turned into a virtual fortress on Monday with government offices at South and North Block being given half the day off to clear the roads approaching Rashtrapati Bhavan of any traffic in order to help sanitise the area. “The approach roads to Rashtrapati Bhavan will be blocked after 5 pm,” Paul said. National Security Guard officers and Delhi Police are both being deployed for the event, which has taken the form of a mini-summit due to the large num- ber of foreign heads of governments in attendance.
While Rashtrapati Bhavan does not expect rain to disrupt the outdoor show, alternative arrangements have been made at the historic Durbar Hall in case there’s a shower.
The BJP formed a committee of three to coordinate arrangements with Rashtrapati Bhavan and has got 2,000 invites that it has sent to celebrities, party leaders, workers and corporate chieftains. General secretary, organization, Ram Lal and senior general secretaries JP Nadda and Ananth Kumar are on the BJP coordination committee.
While invitations to constitutional heads, members of Parliament and members of the previous council of ministers have been handled by Rashtrapati Bhavan, the private guest list of the party is creating a lot of buzz. Industrialists Hari Bhartia, Ajay Shriram and Rajan Mittal are expected to attend as are admen Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi.
Rashtrapati Bhavan confirmed that each member of the new council of ministers has been allowed four passes for family members and their guests. No such passes have been sought by the Prime Minister-designate as yet, according to the Rashtrapati Bhavan briefing.
Party sources said the Cabinet list would be finalised by late evening even as senior leaders like Arun Jaitley continued to make the rounds of both Gujarat Bhawan and RSS headquarters in Delhi, Keshav Kunj. While much speculation has gone on about the nature and constituents of the new Cabinet, the party and Modi have kept their cards close to their chest. Till late evening, telephones of several likely candidates were being directed to voice mail and usually voluble party leaders were uncharacteristically silent. Guests will be served vegetarian refreshments at three places — North Court, South Court and Central Vista. The snacks will consist of moong dal kachori, imartis, dhoklas, assorted savoury tarts and cucumber sandwiches. North Court has a capacity for 400 people, while South Court can accommodate 1,100. After the ceremony, expected to run to an hour and 10 minutes, the Saarc delegation along with the Prime Minister and the council of ministers will be hosted at a banquet by President Mukherjee in the Grey Dining Room and would not have more than 60 guests. The Saarc delegation members can use the guest suites at Rashtrapati Bhavan to freshen up before the banquet. The menu for the banquet will reflect cuisine from across India. The appetiser will be a chilled melon soup served in melon shells, followed by an entrée of chicken and mutton for nonvegetarians and tandoori aloo and arbi kababs for vegetarians. The thali will have prawn stew, chicken Chettinad, Birbali kofta curry, kela methi nu shaaak (a Gujarati dish), dal makhni, potol dolma and Jaipuri bhindi. Dessert will be a choice of pineapple halwa, mango shrikhand, sandesh and fruit.