Political stardust descended in on Ahmedabad on Wednesday as the who’s who of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their allies, at least those aren’t apparently hostile to Narendra Modi, turned up at his swearing-in ceremony at Sardar Patel Stadium.
Seven chief ministers, Thackeray brothers, a plethora of BJP office-bearers, filmstars and a stage full of religious leaders strategically chosen from all faiths were present.
The most obvious absentee was NDA ally, Janata Dal (U)’s Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, while the most prominent presence was of TN CM J Jayalalitha.
Other chief ministers – Shivrajsinh Chauhan (MP), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Manohar Panikkar (Goa), Jagadish Shettar (Karnataka), Arjun Munda (Jharkhand) and Prakash Singh Badal of Punjab were seated right of the pulpit that Modi and his ministers graced. BJP’s Delhi Five – Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, LK Advani, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari – were seated in the front row fraternising with the chief ministers. Rajnath Singh and Vasundhara Raje appeared engaged in an animated conservation throughout the event.
In fact, the time and event was ripe for heavy-duty political networking, and politicos seemed to be enjoying the media glare to the hilt. Bollywood’s presence was marked by Vivek and Suresh Oberoi, Vinod Khanna and Kirron Kher – all seated in second row of the stage.
A surprise appearance by Sahara Group’s Subroto Roy created much intrigue. He was warmly received by the saffron leaders.
But for the media, it was the Modi-Jayalalitha exchange of pleasantries that generated most interested. She was the first person that Modi met after his arrival at the venue, after which he walked up to every dignitary on stage and greeted them.
Jayalalitha however left within minutes after Modi took his oath. The programme continued for another hour with 16 ministers sworn in.
Another person who left early was MNS Chief Raj Thackeray. His brother Uddhav too was present onstage and both maintained a calculated distance from each other.
The seating on stage was pre-decided.