Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pranab sworn in as prez in a brief, stately ceremony

This report has appeared in the July 26, 2012 edition of the Mumbai edition of DNA

New Delhi: In a brief ceremony, Chief Justice of India H.S.Kapadia administered the oath of office of the President of India to Pranab Mukherjee in the Central Hall of Parliament a little after 11.30 am on Wednesday. He took the oath in English and “in the name of God”.

The brief and stately oath-taking ceremony lasted about 45 minutes.

The twenty-one gun salute went off before Mukherjee could make his first speech as president. Vice president Hamid Ansari read the first and last paragraphs of the speech in Hindi. He struggled through the clumsily translated Hindi translation.  

Mukherjee was dressed in the ceremonial and elegant white churidars and a well-cut dark-hued sherwani. He has been seen mostly wearing either the bandh-gala or Bengali style white kurta and dhoti.  

When Kapadia read the short oath in a longer stretch, Mukherjee was not cued in and intercepted in the beginning. Soon he followed the pace set by the chief justice.

After the oath, outgoing president Pratibha Patil exchanged the seat with Mukherjee. He signed the special register brought to him.

Among those who were present on the occasion were prime minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur, Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Mr Devisingh Patil, husband of Mrs Patil, former president A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, who sat in the front row next to Singh.

The cabinet pecking order could be seen with defence minister A.K.Anotny sitting next to Kalam, and agriculture minister and NCP leader Sharad Pawar next to Antony followed by home minister P.Chidambaram.

BJP leaders L.K.Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley sat at the far end of the same row.

Among the governors who were present included Rajasthan’s Margaret Alva, West Bengal’s M.K.Narayanan, Tamil Nadu’s K.Rosaiah, Karnataka’s H.R.Bhardwaj and among the chief ministers were West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, who chose to sit in the last row at the back, Uttar Pradesh’s Akhilesh Yadav, Bihar’s Nitish Kumar.

The three chiefs of the armed forces were there, occupying the middle row towards the back.

The man who attracted most attention was matinee idol of the 1980s, Mithun Chakraborty, who came dressed in a dark coloured dhoti, a bright angarkha (a traditional Indian shirt) and a cream-coloured light shawl-like wrapper swung over his shoulders.

The Central Hall was not too overcrowded and many of the chairs at the back and near the entrances remained vacant.

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