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Singh humble,Vajpayee contemplative

May 22, 2004 20:24 IST
Last Updated: May 22, 2004 21:10 IST

It was a reversal of roles for most, replay of the past for many and a fresh innings for some as the new custodians of the nation's destiny took charge at the ornate Ashoka Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday evening.

If former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appeared contemplative, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, whose stature has touched a new high after declining one of the most powerful jobs in the world, looked elated.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained humble in his moment of supreme glory. Attired in his trademark kurta-churidar and light blue turban, the economist-turned-politician showed no hestitation in walking up to Sonia and thanking her after he was sworn in as the 14th prime minister of India.

The gentle sardar was also the first to greet his predecessor on his arrival and also after the ceremony concluded.

Present to witness the historic moment were former prime ministers V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar, P V Narasimha Rao, H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral,former President K R Narayanan and his wife Usha, and Vimla Sharma, the late President Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma's widow.

Only former President Ramaswamy Venkataraman was absent.

The contrast with the past was discernible, not only in the venue, which was the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan last time.

Unlike Vajpayee, the Oxford-Cambridge educated Singh spoke in English, a language both he and his southern allies are more comfortable with.

Replacing Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav from Bihar were political adversaries Laloo Prasad (who eschewed his caste surname Yadav for the ceremony) and Ram Vilas Paswan.

For the DMK, it was a replay with son Dayanidhi Maran bringing memories of his late father Murasoli Maran.

It was homecoming after a long exile for veterans Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh, Sharad Pawar, Shivraj Patil, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Hans Raj Bharadwaj, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, Kamal Nath, Santosh Mohan Deb, Renuka Chowdhury and Jagdish Tytler, all ministers in earlier Congress governments.

Sudheni Jaipal Reddy, the vocal party spokesman, got a second innings in the Cabinet, ;this time as a Congressman. He was a member of the Janata Dal, the last time he was a Cabinet minister.

Two former BJP leaders were sworn in -- Shankersinh Vaghela, now a Congress MP from Gujarat; A Narendra, from Andhra Pradesh, is now a senior leader in the Telengana Rashtra Samithi.

Vaghela was sworn in as a Cabinet minister as were two of Rajiv Gandhi's favourites, Palaniappan Chidambaram and Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Both Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna watched their Bollywood mentor Sunil Dutt take oath as a Cabinet minister. Another movie personality who found a berth as minister of state was Telugu director Dasari Narayan Rao, who also directed many of the Jeetendra-Sridevi starrers in the early 1980s.

It was the beginning of a new innings in their political career for K Chandrashekhar Rao, the Telengana Rashtra Samithi leader, and Shibu Soren, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo. Both KCR and Soren were sworn in as Cabinet ministers; TRS leader Narendra was made a minister of state.

While almost all the ministers wore traditional attire -- kurta-pyjama, kurta-churidar, pathan suits, dhoti-shirts and bandhgalas -- Pattali Makkal Katchi leader Dr S Ramdoss' son Ambumani chose a two-piece suit with tie. Ambumani, who is not a member of either House of Parliament yet, is trained as a doctor, but also studied economics at the London School of Economics.

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