New Delhi, Aug 15: A near-stampede situation prevailed on the lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday evening, as guests jostled and pushed about to greet Prime Minister Narendra Modi or take his autograph at President Pranab Mukherjee‘s At Home reception, with a foreign envoy remarking that Modi “is a star”.
There was an air of expectation and curiosity among the gathered guests ahead of the arrival of the top government leadership on the lawns of the presidential palace. Even the envoys crowded around the enclosure to catch a glimpse of the top leaders of India’s new dispensation – ranging from Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh to Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh was also there along with his wife Gursharan Kaur as was Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. But it was Prime Minister Modi who stole the show, as he moved to greet the guests, throwing his security into a tizzy.
Dressed in a while short-sleeved kurta pyjama coupled with a pista-green jacket, Modi, after greeting a few guests standing along the ribbon barricade, soon moved into the crowd.
As people realised that the prime minister was in their midst, there was pushing and shoving all around as the crowd edged to get near him. Modi exchanged greetings with people, smiling all the while, and patiently signed autographs for some, though his security kept shouting “no autographs, please”.
Oblivious of the muggy weather and the pouring sweat, the guests, dressed in their best, were overawed to find Modi so accessible.
The prime minister, who swept to power in May on the back of a massive popular mandate, gave a stirring Independence Day speech Friday morning from the ramparts of Red Fort.
When a guest complimented the prime minister on his speech, Modi waved smilingly to acknowledge the compliment. Most guests looked happy just at being able to get so near the prime minister, or even shake hands with him. “He is a star,” said Japanese envoy Takeshi Yagi, smiling and watching the Indian prime minister.
Yagi and his wife had gone in the morning to the Red Fort to listen to Modi’s maiden Independence Day address to the nation. They were among the unprecedented 144 foreign heads of mission who attended the function to hear what India’s new prime minister had to say. Modi is travelling to Japan Aug 31-Sep 3 for a much-anticipated bilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both prime ministers are active on Twitter.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who began the move to mingle with guests after coming to the country’s highest office in July 2012, also moved around with the invitees. He accepted the greetings of the people with a smiling ‘namastey’ as he moved among the crowd.
President Mukherjee has in the past two years taken several steps to make Rashtrapati Bhavan more accessible to the people and undertaken massive restoration work of the grand red sandstone presidential palace.