As the sun set over the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday, Narendra Modi and his council of ministers were sworn in for a second successive term with 8,000 people packing into the forecourt of the historic British-era presidential palace.
In a grand ceremony with overtones of a US presidential inauguration, heads of state and government, India Inc honchos, opposition leaders, BJP members and showbiz stars rubbed shoulders as they watched President Ram Nath Kovind administer the oath of office to India’s 58 new ministers.
The two-hour swearing-in ceremony of Modi government 2.0 — which created a splash, with the prime minister powering his party to a 303 victory in the 543-member Lok Sabha, and also a spectacle — is the largest event to be held in Rashtrapati Bhavan, officials said.
It was India’s Kodak moment for the political times with grandeur and pomp, ritual and glimpses of realpolitik and some history too.
The ceremony started at 7 pm, right on time, but the crowds had started filing in much earlier, taking their allotted seats and making conversation while millions watching the proceedings on TV and other screens speculated about who was who, who was there and who was not.
Soon, as minister after minister took oath with the president sometimes the strict teacher correcting some of them when they slipped up, dusk slipped into night and the lights came on over the panoramic Lutyenscape with the Rashtrapati Bhavan dome lit up in the tricolour.
Among those present were former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former president Pratibha Patil, veteran BJP leader L K Advani and even spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is adamant on his decision to quit office after his party’s debacle in the hustings and hasn’t been seen for some days, created a buzz when he walked in with his mother, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
NDA ally Janata Dal-United chief Nitish Kumar was there too, making an entry shortly after his party announced it would not be part of the government.
The BJP was offering one cabinet berth to the JD(U) and sources said the regional party was also unhappy with the portfolio offered to it.
From India Inc, Reliance Industry’s Mukesh Ambani, veteran industry leader Ratan Tata, steel baron L N Mittal and Adani Group head Gautam Adani were among the who’s who of corporate India present.
RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, Essar Director Prashant Ruia, Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran, Vedanta Chairman Anil Aggarwal and HDFC’s Deepak Parekh were there as well.
Making a starry splash were showbiz stars, including those who were voted into power like Hema Malini and her stepson Sunny Deol. Others like cine star Rajinikanth, filmmaker Karan Johar, Shahid Kapoor, Boney Kapoor and Kangana Ranaut added a touch of glamour.
Sidharth Roy Kapur, president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, Vivek Oberoi, Anupam Kher, Madhur Bhandarkar and Boney Kapoor were also a part of the event.
“The kind of victory they have had, it is almost like a celebration. It is celebration of democracy,” Boney told PTI. After the event, there were light snacks and then a dinner hosted by the president for about 40 guests.