Modi’s Oath Ceremony Left a Lot to be Desired
Slipups unexpected because Rashtrapati Bhavan invariably carries out its bi-annual At Homes for thousands with unerring precision
It may not be unlikely that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after hearing feedback about the swearing in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday evening, will make a mental note to call in the Vibrant Gujarat organisers next time. Given the hype about the arrangements made by the normally meticulous Rashtrapati Bhavan, it should have gone like clockwork. But it didn’t. Of course the worst apprehensions did not come true – no missile attacks, fidayeen forays or even thunderstorms – but a string of unexpected inadequacies diminished what should have been a superlative show. Unexpected because Rashtrapati Bhavan invariably carries out its biannual At Homes for thousands of guests with unerring precision. So what happened yesterday?! The heat, the dust, the milling crowds – it could just as well have been a campaign rally rather than the day when Narendra Damodardas Modi was swor n in as India’s 15th Prime Minister in the forecourt of the grandest Art Deco building in the world, Rashtrapati Bhavan, before a select gathering of 4,000 people. Unlike the smooth flow of traffic during At Homes, hundreds of cars converged on two narrow gates on either side of the President’s Estate. The evening’s reverse flow was even more chaotic as sans cellphones people had to depend on inaudible police walkie-talkies to summon drivers, creating an hour long logjam as all cars tried to exit together. The result: from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in cool flowing white to Anupam Kher to harried less known invitees, everyone had to hang about the dark lawns below the main building, trying in vain to identify cars in the dust. Others desperately cadged phones off strangers to call drivers – only to realize they hadn’t memorized the numbers. So, there was nothing to do but wait. Coming back to the ceremony, politicians, presumably more suited to the great Indian outdoors than other guests, looked composed, having been whisked in separately. Others were less fortunate. Top corporate bosses and assorted notables jostled with BJP workers to filter though a line of metal detectors which seemed more befitting a football stadium. Unlike the BJP workers, however, who by and large meekly sat in their enclosure, many top corporates and leading lights of the fourth estate brazenly marched into those earmarked for the new political elite instead of sticking to their areas, perhaps in search of some lucrative facetime, ignoring the polite (and therefore ineffective) Rashtrapati Bhavan staff.
Only Delhi’s diplomatic corps obediently braised in their dark suits in their designated area, and MPs con-
RULES FOR OTHERS
vivially sat together in their marked area too, regardless of party differences.Butafew‘famous’onesalsocopied the corporates and inveigled themselves amid what is slated tp become thenewpowercircleof LutyensDelhi. An incredibly inane and unnecessary commentary — sounding like a Doordarshan documentary — was succeeded by the unusual procedure of anemceeannouncingthearrivalof all the “prominent” dignitaries who were to be greeted by clapping, apparently. Clearly the emcee forgot he was not presiding over a polo match (his usual beat) but the inaugural of a PM. The heat was unbearable and handkerchief and invitation cards doubled up as fans. Clearly a few mist fans did nothing to alleviate the tor- por. And only the VVIPs on the front rows got water – a facility that should have been provided by Rashtrapati Bhavan but only made an appearance at the “high tea” afterwards.
The Pakistan PM in his suit and tie, the Afghan president in his elegant longcoat,andtheBhutanesePMinhis thick national dress must have swelteredliketherestof us,butatleastthey had fans. What of the corporates and othernotablesmoreusedtowell-provisionedenvirons?Thiswassupposedto be a landmark event after all.
In the event, the dangers of dehydration came to a head when son of a prominent newly anointed cabinet minister fainted. Every doctor in the house, from the President’s physician to the new health minister, rushed to tend to him, but it took 15 minutes – or the time in which 7 ministers of state were sworn in – for a stretcher to arrive to take him away for treatment.
In the end the event left people with more questions than merely who got what portfolios. Some wondered why the food was uninspiring, others wondered at the behavior of the airconditioned classes, many debated what would have happened had there been a more serious medical emergency. But most people agreed that next time such a jamboree is planned, it should be outsourced.