It was a swearingin ceremony with a difference.
Nineteen out of twenty-one ministers took oath in Hindi Saturday afternoon—a shift from the UPA regime where most leaders preferred to speak in English. But the thrust on Hindi was just one of the many changes from the earlier swearing-in ceremonies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked freely among guests and chatted with them. He, however, refrained from talking about the reshuffle—something which his predecessor Manmohan Singh did on every occasion.
“Do not touch my feet,” was Modi’s polite but firm message to enthusiasts who rushed to seek his blessings. He preferred handshake with them.
It may be more than a coincidence that sights of ministers bowing down in front of the PM and party chief—some even touching the feet—were also over.
BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani, who came minutes before the PM entered the historic Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, was ushered to a front row seat. He sat next to Amit Shah and close to Modi.
While the Opposition leadership was conspicuous by its absence, some NDA chief ministers—Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan, Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu arrived early.
Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped in, it was BJP president Amit Shah who was clearly the centre of attraction. The wannabe ministers, other guests and even some Rashtrapati Bhavan officials reaching out to shake hands or talk to him.
Power minister Peeyush Goel was busy running around. Finance minister Arun Jaitley had a long chat with his party chief. Senior ministers like Venkaiah Naidu, Kalraj Mishra, Ramvilas Paswan and Nitin Gadkari were present. HRD minister Smriti Irani, however, could not come because of her official engagement in Mumbai.