Guests revelled as Modi missed Atal

Guests revelled as Modi missed Atal

Guests revelled as Modi missed Atal

So grand was the gathering and so telling was the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as prime minister, as the dusk set in behind the Rashtrapati Bhavan, that the man of the moment could have had only one  wish: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who headed the first BJP government in 1998, was present to witness history in the making.

Thoughts of Vajpayee was very much in Modi's mind as he walked up to take oath. Wearing a pastel-coloured Nehru jacket over a full-sleeve off-white “kurta” and sporting a tricolour badge, Modi took oath in Hindi in the name of God. He was lustily cheered as President Pranab Mukherjee congratulated him.

Only twice earlier have swearing-in ceremonies been held at the forecourt—those of Chandrashekhar in 1990 and Vajpayee in 1998—when the guests numbered only around 1,200-1,300.

But on Monday, almost 4,000 guests, including world leaders and film stars, watched Modi and his council of 45 ministers take oath.

Earlier in the day, after paying respects to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat, Modi had headed to Vajpayee's home seek his blessings. Vajpayee, 89, is now confined to his home owing to health reasons. Modi missed his mother too.

Hiraben, who had raised him and his siblings by working as a domestic help, could not make it due to health reasons.

For many a BJP and RSS leader, including veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, the ceremony was not just a big event but the culmination of a breathtaking political journey. Often ideologically isolated, the BJP had finally become the fulcrum of a new political acceptability.

The audience, consisting of  corporate bigwigs such as Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, was proof of that acceptance, as a BJP veteran put it.For hundreds of  BJP workers, who could not help but shout “Modi, Modi” when he arrived, he alone was the reason they were there.

The presence of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, who led the failed Congress campaign, showed India's democracy had matured enough for political rivals to be part of celebration of victory.

Film stars Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi, actor-turned-politicians Shatrughan Sinha and Hema Malini, who have won recent elections, and Malini's husband Dharmendra, were all seen enjoying the moment.

No one could miss the presence of large number religious gurus, including Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Morari Bapu, Jagadguru Rambhadracharya and Sadhvi Rithambara, who were prominent in the front row of guests.

As Modi took leave, shaking hands with his guests, his thoughts could not but go to an outhouse of an MP's bungalow adjoining the BJP headquarters at 11 Ashoka Road, where he had spent the period between 1995 and 2001.

Today, he drove off  to 7 Race Course Road, the official residence of the prime minister, just about 5 km from Rashtrapati Bhavan. Nothing could have more symbolised his rise from political vacuum to global fame.