At least 8,000 guests will attend the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan today, making it the biggest-ever event held in the historic premises.
While the guests attending the event will be treated to high tea, President Ram Nath Kovind will host a private dinner for the leaders from BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries as well as Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth – who have all confirmed their presence.
Steel magnate L N Mittal is also expected to be present.
“It will be the biggest-ever event at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. At least 8,000 people are coming,” Ashok Malik, press secretary to the president, told IANS.
The size of the gathering is seen as a reflection of the massive mandate received by Modi in the Lok Sabha elections. Both his Bharatiya Janata Party and National Democratic Alliance it leads have improved their tally compared to 2014.
The swearing-in will be held in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the same venue as in 2014. The event then was attended by about 5,000 guests.
The high tea will have snacks, including samosas, and paneer items apart from sweets, while at the president’s dinner, the visiting foreign dignitaries will be treated to “Dal Raisina” – a special delicacy of the Rashtrapati Bhavan that takes 48 hours to cook - among other delicacies.
The prime minister will also attend the dinner, along with some officials.
With the swearing-in scheduled for 7pm, the dinner will be light as it will be served a little late in the evening.
The BIMSTEC leaders attending the event include Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Myanmarese President U Win Myint, Nepali Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering.
Thailand will be represented by its Special Enovy Grisada Boonrach.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance chairperson and senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi will attend the event, party leaders said.
However, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will not attend, alleging the BJP was using the ceremony “to score political points”.
The BJP hit back, saying she was looking for “excuses” to avoid attending the event.
“The oath-taking ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party which uses it as an opportunity to score political points,” Banerjee said.
The Trinamool Congress chief’s remark came after media reports said at least 70 family members of slain BJP activists in West Bengal had been invited to the ceremony as “special guests”.
This is being seen as a message to Banerjee ahead of assembly elections in 2021.
The chief minister took exception to the BJP’s claim that 54 people had been “murdered in political violence” in her state.
Congratulating Modi for taking over as the prime minister again, Banerjee said she had planned “to accept the constitutional invitation” and attend the oath-taking ceremony.
“However, in the past one hour, I am seeing media reports with the BJP claiming that 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal,” she said.
Calling the claim “completely untrue”, she said: “There have been no political murders in Bengal.”
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