New Delhi: A warm sunny afternoon provided the perfect backdrop for the customary At Home hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the evening of Republic Day on Tuesday.
French President Francois Hollande, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, union ministers and other dignitaries like former prime minister Manmohan Singh, veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were also present on the occasion.
Union ministers like Rajnath Singh (home), Arun Jaitley (finance), Nirmala Sitharaman (commerce), Ravi Shankar Prasad (Communication and IT), Harsh Vardhan (Science and Technology), Dharmendra Pradhan (Petroleum), Jayant Sinha (MoS Finance), Rajiv Pratap Rudy (MoS skill development), and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (MoS Information & Broadcasting) were also in attendance.
The capital’s powers that be, along with foreign dignitaries and a number of diplomats from various embassies, mingled among themselves at the Mughal Gardens as they waited for the president to arrive.
Mukherjee, dressed in a black bandhgala, was escorted to the dais by his aides. He later moved to a canopy in the centre of the lawns in an area marked for VIPs and introduced the union ministers and his staff to the French president.
Modi also mingled with the invitees. And, like Mukherjee, took a walk around the venue, greeting the invitees with a namaste, handshake or a wave. Modi wore a cream waistcoat on the occasion.
Keeping reports of a terror threat during the French president’s visit, the invitees were expected to stay within enclosures that were demarcated to prevent any mobbing of the Mukherjee or Modi, who walked along the designated path with their security keeping a close watch.
The president’s daughter, Sharmistha Mukherjee, who is also a local Congress politician, stood nearby engrossed in a conversation with Advani, who was earlier seated close to the president next to Manmohan Singh. The former prime minister walked up to the 96-year-old Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, who was seated in the VIP enclosure and greeted him.
The top brass of the armed forces glistered in their ceremonial regalia.
The reception ended with the playing of the national anthem, after which the president departed from the venue.