India’s cultural and linguistic diversity were on display in Parliament on Thursday as 510 of the 539 members of the 16th Lok Sabha took oath in dialects ranging from Sanskrit and Konkani to Kannada, Maithili and Hindi.
Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to take oath in Hindi in the name of god, amid thumping of desks.
Following him was BJP patriarch LK Advani and several cabinet ministers, some of whom -- such as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, water resources minister Uma Bharti and health minister Harsh Vardhan – took their oath of office in Sanskrit.
Parliament was witness to much bonhomie as members dropped political rivalries after a heated election season and even greeted leaders of rival parties. The House — which has more than 300 first-time MPs — wore a festive look with several members turning up in colourful traditional attire and attractive head gear.
Watch: Modi, Advani, Sonia take oath as Lok Sabha members
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi took oath in Hindi, while several members preferred to complete the formalities in their mother tongues.
Kirti Azad, Virendra Kumar Chaudhary and Hukumdeo Narain Yadav took oath in Maithili, while DV Sadananda Gowda, Ananth Kumar and GM Siddheshwara took their pledge in Kannada. Sarbananda Sonowal took his vow in Assamese, while Jual Oram preferred Odia.
The festive mood, however, failed to thaw the ice between Sonia and Maneka Gandhi – who took her oath in English — as the two Gandhis shared pleasantries rather reluctantly.
Reprimands from the protem speaker Kamal Nath notwithstanding, a few MPs strayed from the script by invoking their political patrons as they took the oath. Some Shiv Sena members took oath in the name of party founder Bal Thackeray, while Aam Aadmi member Bhagwant Mann came dressed up like the late Bhagat Singh.
Though the strength of Parliament is 543, there are four vacancies after Modi and Mulayam Singh Yadav resigned from Vadodara and Mainpuri respectively, choosing to retain their Varanasi and Azamgarh seats. Telangana Rashtra Samithi K Chandrasekhara Rao resigned from Medak to take over as the chief minister of Telangana while the Beed MP Gopinath Munde was killed in an accident on Tuesday.