A popular touch to President Pranab's At Home reception

A popular touch to President Pranab's At Home reception

Rain played the perfect tease, drizzling just a little for a couple of minutes on a hot sultry evening as President Pranab Mukherjee hosted his first 'At Home' reception and injected a popular touch to his presidency by dismantling the barriers between the VIPs and other invited guests.

Ministers, politicians, diplomats, socialites and journalists were among more than 500 guests invited at the reception held on the sprawling lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan on the occasion of India's 66th Independence Day.

The ceremonies played by the clock. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar sat under a maroon canopy waiting for the president to arrive.

It looked like it was going to rain any minute and it drizzled also a bit as Mukherjee, elegantly dressed in a black sherwani, arrived at 6 p.m. sharp.

The army band played the national anthem, with assembled guests standing at attention as a mark of respect. Accompanied by senior aides, Mukherjee went around greeting the guests with folded hands.

After the national anthem, the barriers that divided the so-called VIP guests - ministers, ambassadors and senior diplomats - and other invited guests were done away with, letting everyone greet Mukherjee.

This small gesture signalled Mukherjee's style of bringing a popular touch to his nascent presidency. 

In the last few At Home receptions hosted by his predecessor, the VIPs and other invited guests were segregated, leaving those outside the hallowed category in a sulk. 

This time, the interaction was more animated and the atmosphere was more cheerful despite an intensely humid evening.

Gandhi, who could not attend the last 'At Home' reception as she was away abroad recuperating from a surgery for an undisclosed medical condition, looked quite serene dressed in a cream white sari.

Among the ministers who were found chatting frequently with invited guests were Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy and Power Minister M. Veerappa Moily.

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