Pomp and grandeur at Kovind swearing in; political rivals chat
Banter and bitter rivals catching up with each other was witnessed at the short oath-taking ceremony of President Ram Nath Kovind in the Central Hall of Parliament, but outside the protocol-driven Presidential transition was full of pomp and grandeur.
The historic Central Hall was brimming to capacity and an extra row of chairs had to be placed in the front that had Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda and several other senior leaders.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose government is not on good terms with the Centre, was seen interacting animatedly with Prime Minister Modi. Union Minister Uma Bharti and BJP Vice Presidential candidate M. Venkaiah Naidu went up to Sonia Gandhi and spoke to her.
Kovind is the first President of the country who had been in the BJP and party MPs and chief ministers were present in strength. The ceremony was followed by raising slogans of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" and "Jai Shri Ram" by some BJP MPs.
The brief and crisp function in the Central Hall began with arrival of outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee and Kovind in a ceremonial procession that included Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Chief Justice of India Justice J.S. Khehar.
Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi sought the permission of the outgoing President for conducting the ceremony and then read out the communication from the Election Commission about election of Kovind as the new President.
The Chief Justice administered the oath of office to Kovind, who took the oath in Hindi in the name of God.
As Kovind walked back, Mukherjee smilingly ushered Kovind to the seat he was previously seated in and congratulated him. A 21-gun salute followed. Kovind delivered his address and the ceremony ended with the rendering of the national anthem.
As he stepped down from the podium, Kovind went to the front row and exchanged greetings with all the leaders present, including Modi, Sonia Gandhi, BJP chief Amit Shah, former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and NDA's vice-presidential candidate Naidu.
He also exchanged greetings with former Speaker Meira Kumar, who was his rival in the presidential election.
The new President and the Ex-President left the Central Hall in a ceremonial procession to the tune of 'Slow March', accepting greetings with folded hands.
Afterwards, the MPs showed no hurry to leave the Central Hall as they shook hands, exchanged smiles and chatted. The Prime Minister was greeted by a large number of MPs as he slowly made his way out of the hall.
He briefly stopped to talk to Congress treasurer Motilal Vora and spent more time talking to Mamata Banerjee, who was at the rear end of the Central Hall.
The West Bengal Chief Minister was surrounded by Trinamool Congress MPs and later sat down with them in the Central Hall for an informal interaction.
Two other chief ministers were similarly accosted by MPs from their state - Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Some MPs took photographs with Adityanath.
Other chief ministers present included Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), K. Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana), Devendra Fadnavis (Maharashtra), Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana) and Edappadi K. Palaniswami (Tamil Nadu).
RSS leader Suresh Soni and BJP general secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal were among those present.
The visitors gallery had a large presence of foreign diplomats. Kovind's wife Savita was also present. - IANS