A Mountain of People at Raisina Hill
4k dignitaries, heads of state, who’s who of India Inc and Bollywood attend ceremony
NISTULA HEBBAR & RAKESH MOHAN CHATURVEDI
If his compact Cabinet showed he did live up to his credo of ‘Less Government, More Governance’, his swearing-in ceremony proved that all things Modi tend to work out in a swift, streamlined fashion with even the weather gods falling in line.
Around 4,000-odd dignitaries had gathered in the lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday evening that had five heads of state in attendance, including Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapaksa, two former Indian presidents APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patel, outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the who’s who of India Inc. Yet, many an eye was spying on the sky to check if it will rain on Narendra Modi’s parade as was feared. But the swearing-in ceremony of the 15th prime minister — the most lavish in Indian history — went the way it was planned with the dignitaries assembling by 5 pm, the heads of state trickling in by 5.30 pm, the PMdesignate arriving in his Scorpio by 6 pm, and President Pranab Mukherjee inviting him over to the dais at 6.10 pm.
As the PM stepped up to take oath, cries of “Modi, Modi” filled the sweltering May air, probably another first, in this ceremony of firsts. “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and a feeble “Jai Shri Ram” also competed, but were quietened quickly as the ministers took oath. The crowd tried to mingle, but losing a prized perch with a good view kept most glued to their seat despite the heat. Except the constitutional heads such as governors (Modi had only asked for 17 invitation cards for some of the governors), expresidents, PMs and members of the SAARC delegation, there was more or less free seating according to blocks. New MPs rubbed shoulders with former ministers, the media with foreign diplomats. Newly elected MP from Surendranagar in Gujarat, Fatepara Devajibhai Govindbhai, dressed up in full Gujarati folk regalia, was given a bit of a run-around before he convinced the security staff that he was indeed an elected member of Parliament. Soon to be sworn-in ministers, perhaps sensing a restive audience, appeared among the crowd to accept congrat- ulations. When asked by the media as to what portfolio he was being given, Ravi Shankar Prasad quipped, “One that would not take me away from you” — hinting that he would be given the information & broadcasting ministry. Pretty soon that certainty was washed away with speculation.
The Ambani family included not just brothers Mukesh and Anil, but also their mother Kokilaben. Mukesh’s wife Nita Ambani was seen with sons Akash and Anant while Anil Ambani’s wife Tina, too, was in attendance. Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, Bharti Group’s Sunil, Rakesh and Rajan Mittal, Kotak Mahindra Bank CMD Uday Kotak and Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani were spotted while Essar Group’s Shashi Ruia was seen in one of the front rows sitting next to CBI Director Ranjit Sinha. Other captains of India Inc in attendance included Hero Group’s Pawan Munjal, Videocon Group’s VN Dhoot and Rajkumar Dhoot, Hari Bhartia of Jubilant, DLF’s Rajiv Singh and Suzlon’s Tulsi Tanti.
From the aviation space, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal and the new emerging carrier AirAsia’s Mittu Chandilya were spotted.
The much-needed bling was added by Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Vivek Oberoi, and of course actors-turned-politicians such as Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini and husband Dharmendra, Kirron Kher and husband Anupam Kher, lyricist Javed Akhtar and Shatrughan Sinha. Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni too was spotted while spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was seen in the front row.