New Delhi: The swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as the 15th Prime Minister of India will be the biggest event so far to have been staged at the Rashtrapati Bhawan (President’s House) with the guest list, which includes key leaders from SAARC countries, set to cross the 4,000 mark.
This is the first time that such a large gathering will be held at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, where the biggest ceremonies so far have seen a maximum of up to 1,500 to 2,000 guests, for instance, during the ‘At Home’ functions on the occasions of Republic and Independence days.
The swearing-in functions of Chandrashekhar in 1990 and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998 were held at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan and saw an attendance of 1,200 to 1,300 guests, said Omita Paul, Secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee.
“With the gathering (for Modi’s swearing-in) expected to be around 4,000 people, it was a huge logistical challenge for us and we enjoyed it,” Paul said while interacting with mediapersons on the preparations for Monday’s function, when Mr Modi will be sworn-in at 6 pm.
There is no immediate information about any family member of the Prime Minister-designate attending the function, she said.
Even as Paul was talking to the media, final preparations were underway to prepare the stage where the President will administer the oath to Mr Modi and his Council of Ministers.
“We have not been told anything about who will be sworn-in along with the Prime Minister,” was Paul’s prompt reply when asked about the size of the Cabinet.
The secretary said that the President had given his nod for the swearing-in to be held at the forecourt as he has always favoured the participation of more and more people.
“It has been an endeavour of the President to make Rashtrapati Bhawan people friendly,” she said.
With the weather forecast hinting at the likelihood of thundershowers, Paul said she is hoping that no rain occurs during the function on Monday as the venue would then have to shift inside to the ‘Durbar Hall’, which has seating for 500 people while 400 others can fit in standing.
Twelve golf carts will be pressed into service to ferry people who cannot walk to the forecourt, she said, adding that the guests are expected to be seated by 5 pm at the North Court, South Court and Central Vista of the forecourt.
Due to security precautions, bags or mobile phones will not be allowed inside the venue, she said.
“We have made some arrangements for the very hot weather, like fans, water, etc,” she said, quickly adding in a lighter vein that “let’s enjoy the sun and also feel the sauna effect”.
All roads leading to Rashtrapati Bhawan will be closed at 5 pm to facilitate the VVIP movement.
This is the first time that heads of SAARC nations will be attending such a function, she said, adding that this is also the maiden occasion when invitations have been sent to all 777 MPs, comprising members of Lok and Rajya Sabha.
Governors and Chief Ministers of all states, diplomats, envoys and other constitutional heads would be attending the function besides a battery of over 350 journalists.
Members of the outgoing UPA-II Cabinet have also been invited to attend the function.
To keep the public entertained during the waiting period, bands of Navy, Army and Air Force will perform patriotic songs. That will be followed by a commentary from 4:45 pm onwards about the arrival of VVIPs.
Ambulances and teams of doctors have been placed at strategic points at the venue in case of emergencies, she said.