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

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - RESHMI DAS­GUPTA

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-


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.


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