Pomp and grandeur characterised the oath-taking ceremony of Ram Nath Kovind who took office of the President of India today. The ceremony at the Central Hall of Parliament had its share of interesting moments as Kovind, the first leader from the BJP and only the second Dalit occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan, began his stint as the 14th President of the republic. Following are the sidelights of the event:
1 BJP leaders greet PM with thumping of desk:
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered the hall before the start of the function, he was welcomed by BJP MPs, chief ministers and Union ministers with thumping of desk.
2 Modi, Mamata exchange pleasantries:
When Modi was about to leave the venue after the function got over, he spotted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee among the attendees. Modi waved to her and the fiesty TMC leader promptly responded with a ‘Namaste’. Putting their political acrimony behind, the two moved forward and chatted briefly. However, there were frosty vibes between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, who lost the presidential race to Kovind. Though the two Bihar leaders sat next to each other, there was hardly any talk between the two. Nitish had supported Kovind, a former Bihar governor against Meira Kumar.
3 Rahul has four suspended Congress MPs as company:
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was seen occupying his place in one of the rear rows with four party MPs who were among the six to have been suspended for their “highly unbecoming” conduct in Parliament over recent mob lynchings yesterday. These included M K Raghavan, Gaurav Gogoi, Sushmita Dev and Ranjeet Ranjan. Mamata Banerjee was seen seated with her party MPs in the rear rows of the hall while most other chief ministers were in the front rows.
As soon as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal entered the hall, Banerjee’s close confidant Derek O’Brien invited him to be seated with her. The two leaders, bitter critics of the prime minister, were seen chatting animatedly for a long time. Modi was seated with former president pratibha Patil and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda in the front row. Many were surprised at the arrival of Patil after Kovind had already taken oath. BJP president Amit Shah was seen seated with veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, both members of the party’s ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’, the panel constituted to advise the party. Giving them company was M Venkaiah Naidu, the NDA’s vice presidential nominee.
Naidu was seen engaged in conversation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who occupied the seat beside him. The new president’s wife Savita Kovind, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party MP Satish Chandra Mishra were seen seated in the front row. Judges of the Supreme Court were seated in the second and third rows. Modi exchanged pleasantries with them after the ceremony.
Three service chiefs – General Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa and Admiral Sunil Lanba – were seated in one of the middle rows. Among the governors who attended the function were C Vidyasagar Rao (Maharashtra), N N Vohra (Jammu and Kashmir, S C Jamir (Odisha), P Sathasivam (Kerala), Keshri Nath Tripathi (West Bengal), Najma Heptullah (Manipur), Banwarilal Purohit (Assam), P B Acharya (Nagaland) and Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry Kiran Bedi among others.
Among the chief ministers in attendance were: Devendra Fadnavis (Maharashtra), E K Palaniswami (Tamil Nadu), Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan), Sarbananda Sonowal (Assam), K Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana), Vijay Rupani (Gujarat), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana), P K Chamling (Sikkim), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh) and N Biren Singh (Manipur).
4 Yogi is the toast of BJP MPs:
Notwithstanding the presence of a galaxy of frontline leaders, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was the toast of BJP MPs. As the function got over, he was virtually mobbed by BJP lawmakers, many of whom touched his feet while others had a warm handshake. Adityanath sat beside Rajasthan Governor and former BJP stalwart Kalyan Singh.
5 BJP MPs chant Jai Shri Ram:
As has become quite common these days, some BJP MPs chanted “Jai Shree Ram” and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, slogans that many see as reflective of divisive politics, after the formalities of swearing-in Kovind had concluded.