Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony as India's 15th PM at the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt on Monday evening is set to be a grand event. An unprecedented 4,000 guests, including heads of the government of eight countries (of which seven are from Saarc), all 777 MPs of both Houses, the outgoing PM and his council of ministers, all governors, CMs, ambassadors and other constitutional authorities like the chief justice of India will attend the event.
The area around the Rashtrapati Bhavan will turn into a fortress with near 800 Delhi Police jawans providing a five-layered security cover. Two unmanned aerial vehicles, popularly known as drones, will hover over the Rashtrapati Bhavan accompanied by anti-aircraft guns on ground.
The security arrangements have been made on the lines of Republic Day with army, air force and other intelligence agencies assisting the Delhi Police. "All roads leading to Rashtrapati Bhavan will remain closed. The nearby offices of the North, South blocks and various ministries in Rail Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan, Shastri Bhavan and Vayu Sena Bhanan, etc, will close at 1pm. Snipers and commandos will be deployed at various places," said Mukesh Kumar Meena, joint commissioner, Delhi Police.
This will be the third time when the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt will be the venue for the PM's swearing-in ceremony. The previous instances were in 1990 when Chandrashekhar became PM after the fall of the VP Singh government and in 1998, when Atal Bhari Vajpayee was sworn in as PM of the BJP-led NDA government.
Omita Paul, secretary to the president, said the ceremony will start at 6pm and its duration would depend on the number of members in Modi's cabinet and the ministers of state being sworn in. Each minister will take 1.5-2 minutes to complete the swearing-in procedure. As part of the procedure, the PM and the ministers will have to take two sets of oath, shake hands with the president, go to the table, sit down and sign in the register before returning to the special seating enclosure made for them.
The presidential staff refused to divulge the number of chairs being set for the council of ministers. Paul told dna that there was no request from Modi for seats for his family members. She said a BJP coordination committee was finalising the guest list. While each member of the council of ministers is allowed to bring four guests, the MPs can get none.
There will be 350-odd people from the media to cover the event. Doordarshan will telecast the ceremony live with a running commentary which will start before the event. There will be no live reporting by any other print, radio or electronic journalist. Three bands will be in attendance with the air force band playing in the north and the naval band in the south.
Paul said the guests will start arriving from 3pm and everyone will be seated by 5.30pm. The weather department has predicted thundershowers. In case of rain, the guests will move into the Durbar Hall, which can seat 400 people, and into other rooms.
There will be refreshments for all the guests which were described as "nice and austere" by Paul. There will be six varieties of snacks, including moong dal kachoris, dhokla, cucumber sandwiches, assorted tarts and cookies. Paul said the decision to serve only vegetarian food was taken because of logistic reasons as keeping two food counters – vegetarian and non-vegetarian – would have caused confusion.
President Pranab Mukherjee will host a private dinner for Saarc leaders and Modi and his council of ministers in the Grey Room of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The dinner will include prawn stew, chicken chettinad, Jaipuri bhindi, dal makhni, steamed rice and assorted Indian breads. Mango shrikhand, pineapple halwa, sandesh and cut fruits will be part of the dessert menu. The attempt was to give an assortment of dishes from all over India. It will end with green tea, coffee and paan.
Apart from Raisina Hill, the entire New Delhi district has been put on high alert and except for Jantar Mantar, no gathering will be allowed at any other area in the capital. A Tamil group on Sunday protested against the invitation sent to Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse at Jantar Mantar.
The Delhi Police have also made special arrangements for the security of foreign delegates who will attend the swearing-in ceremony. "Security has been beefed up at the Taj Mansingh Hotel where Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif would be staying," said a police officer. -With inputs from Maninder Dabas