A Big Menu for a Likely Small Govt

Modi’s swear­ing-in cer­e­mony will be big­gest of its kind at Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van

The Economic Times - - Front Page - NISTULA HEBBAR

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.

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