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History Unfolds At Rashtrapati Bhavan

By Nivedita Mookerji
June 10, 2024 09:52 IST
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With the strain and anxiety of the longest Lok Sabha polls now behind the leaders, governance, with consensus, is the next step.

IMAGE: Narendra D Modi bows to the guests before he was sworn in as prime minister for the third time, June 9, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

The historic forecourt of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday evening witnessed a range of emotions at the oath-taking ceremony of the new council of ministers of the 18th Lok Sabha.

While most of the big names in the Modi 2.0 government have made it to Modi 3.0, there was an air of coalition at the ceremony -- bigger in scale than the previous two times with around 10,000 guests, including seven world leaders from 'friendly' neighbouring countries, delegates, captains of Corporate India such as Mukesh Ambani, Kumar Mangalam Birla, and Gautam Adani, and Bollywood celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Raveena Tandon, and Akshay Kumar.

IMAGE: Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan arrive to attend the event at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Photograph: ANI Photo

Long before the buglers heralded President Droupadi Murmu's arrival and the forecourt reverberated with the strains of the National Anthem, the celebrations had begun with a sea of selfies early in the evening against the stunning backdrop.

Crowds had spotted Hema Malini, the 'Dream Girl' who went into politics and won the Mathura seat, and then Kangana Ranaut in a breezy crème sari. She won in Himachal Pradesh.

Despite not being named in the new Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government's list of ministers, outgoing Union minister Anurag Thakur was present at the ceremony and had earlier in the day expressed his unwavering commitment to the party and its mission.

IMAGE: An estimated 10,000 guests attended Prime Minister Narendra D Modi's swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, June 9, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

The hot evening was cooled by mist fans and water dispensers at regular intervals. But the temperature soared despite the cooling devices as Narendra D Modi arrived in a black Range Rover to take the oath for a third term as prime minister.

The packed forecourt chanted 'Modi, Modi, Modi' non-stop as the BJP leader, who now heads a coalition government for the first time, smiled and waved at the guests and then took his seat next to his Cabinet colleague Rajnath Singh.

It appeared that his popularity was undented even though the BJP fell short of a majority in the 2024 elections.

IMAGE: Modi waves to the crowd. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Modi, who is equalling Jawaharlal Nehru's third term as PM, was in all white paired with a blue sleeveless jacket. He kept it simple, giving the ceremonial pagdi (turban) a miss.

White, crème, black, blue, and red dominated the colour code of the leaders as they watched the proceedings and took turns taking the oath.

Among the diversity of colours, saffron had a good showing among the guests though.

It was a long evening for President Murmu. Dressed elegantly in a crème and purple silk sari, she administered the oath to Modi around 7.30 pm and concluded the day's proceedings with all the ministers almost two-and-a-half hours later.

IMAGE: Modi takes the oath of office. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

This was the fifth time that a swearing-in was taking place in the forecourt.

The first time it was done outdoors in the forecourt was in 1990 when Chandra Shekhar became PM, and then again with Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998.

After a gap, in 2014, when Modi became PM for the first time, the ceremony shifted to the forecourt again, when the President at the time, Pranab Mukherjee, administered the oath, followed by the same tradition in 2019 by Ram Nath Kovind.

Earlier, most swearing-in ceremonies were held at the Ashoka Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan with only about 500 guests in attendance.

IMAGE: Modi greets Nitin Gadkari. Photograph: ANI Photo

When it was the turn of the council of ministers, most of whom Modi met at his residence earlier in the day over tea, their expressions were mixed, some joyous and others not so much.

Many of the senior ministers such as Nirmala Sitharaman in a pastel crème sari, S Jaishankar and Ashwini Vaishnaw -- both in white -- came early, attending to the guests.

Amit A Shah, Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal -- all in combinations of white and blue or black -- and Nitin Gadkari in red and white attire took the oath one by one as the evening progressed.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was spotted in his traditional saffron robe.

Dressed in a red sari, Smriti Irani, who lost the Amethi election, sat a little distance away.

Also spotted were Delhi winners Bansuri Swaraj, the late Sushma Swaraj's daughter, in a blue sari, and next to her, Praveen Khandelwal, a trade association leader who won from the Chandni Chowk constituency.

IMAGE: Parliament building construction workers hold the invitation card to the ceremony. Photograph: ANI Photo

Besides the movers and shakers who attended the ceremony, many of the workers who had worked tirelessly to change Rajpath into Kartavya Path were also there for the ceremony.

There were other notable attendees, such as Surekha Yadav, Asia's first woman loco pilot and notably of the Vande Bharat train from Mumbai to Solapur, who was also invited.

Modi has used swearing-in events to send out diplomatic messages in the past. This time too, it was about 'Neighborhood First', barring Pakistan and China.

It's worth noting that around the same time, the India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash was in progress in New York, televised live, perhaps giving competition to the oath ceremony in television ratings.

IMAGE: Modi and senior Cabinet ministers at the swearing-in ceremony. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

In the capital, which turned into a fortress due to multi-level security during the weekend, the focus is surely on the road ahead, starting with the first 100 days.

With the strain and anxiety of the longest Lok Sabha polls now behind the leaders, governance, with consensus, is the next step.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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Nivedita Mookerji
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India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024