While there are bound to be comparisons between Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and that of Narendra Modi in the coming months and years, enthusiastic slogans of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Jai Shri Ram” at the latter’s swearing in ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday came as a reminder of Vajpayee’s oath-taking ceremony in 1998.
Four ministers who were part of 1998 ceremony — Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, Uma Bharti and Maneka Gandhi — took oath on Monday, but what appeared to draw more attention were the two notable omissions — L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. As about 4,000 guests awaited Modi’s arrival, Advani, the “guiding light” of the party, was surrounded by to-be-sworn-in ministers like Swaraj, Ananth Kumar, Smriti Irani and Gopinath Munde, who touched his feet and sought his blessings. Even Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was accompanied by Rahul, stopped to share pleasantries with Advani. Joshi, on the other hand, made a quiet entry and went straight to his seat.
Apart from Sonia and Rahul and former Union ministers P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh, not many from the Congress could be seen among the guests. The first from the Congress to reach the venue was former Union Minister M S Gill, who asked the usher to lead him to a seat meant for former Chief Election Commissioner. One of the guests demanded a seat from another usher saying “I am an NRI from America” but in the midst of the who’s who of the country, the usher chose to walk away.
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Apart from many heads of states from SAARC countries and Mauritius, diplomats, industry captains like Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Gautam Adani, Kishore Biyani, and Naresh Goyal, film stars like Salman Khan, Vivek Oberoi, Anupam Kher and Anu Kapur braved the heat to add power and glitz to the event. Incidentally, the announcement of arrival of Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif drew applause from the crowd. While Sharief met former President APJ Abdul Kalam, outgoing PM Manmohan Singh and L K Advani, he apparently did not notice Sonia, seated a few seats ahead in the front row.
President Pranab Mukherjee had to intervene a few times to correct some apparently nervous ministers who fumbled while taking the oath of office and secrecy. Shripad Naik, for instance, started taking oath of secrecy before the oath of office; Ashok Gajpati Raju fogot to take his name while starting the oath. Of the 45 ministers, 10 took oath in English, while others did it in Hindi. Unlike the UPA government in which many ministers were atheists or would take oath in the name of God and Allah, all ministers on Monday, including Najma Heptullah, took oath in the name of God.