Modi to begin with diplomatic durbar
Never before in post-Independence history has the swearing-in ceremony of nation’s prime minister been turned into such a significant diplomatic event. The last time the heads of states converged in the national capital for such a function was when a special durbar was held in 1911 for the coronation of British sovereigns George V and Queen Mary. Known as Delhi Durbar, it’s considered a milestone in Indian history as here it was announced the transfer of capital from Calcutta to Delhi, restoring to it the place of prima donna among Indian cities.
Having led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory, its leader Narendra Modi would be sworn in as the Prime Minister on Monday evening in the forecourt of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan, a legacy from British era, at a grand function to be attended by foreign dignitaries. The swearing-in ceremony of the 15th prime minister would be attended by nearly 3,000 guests, including top leaders from SAARC countries like Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan’s outgoing president Hamid Karzai, Bhutan prime pinister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal prime minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Bangladesh will be represented by Speaker Shirin Chaudhury as premier Sheikh Hasina would be travelling to Japan at the time of the swearing-in ceremony. Mauritius prime minister Navin Ramgoolam is also attending the ceremony.
This is the first time that the heads of states of foreign nations have been invited to attend the swearing-in ceremony of an Indian prime minister. The invitation sent out to the foreign heads of state, in the last few days totally overshadowed cabinet formation in the media discourse, signaling that governance at the centre after a longtime was all set to enter into an era of individual-inspired politics. Though Modi during the parliamentary party meeting of BJP, where he was elected its leader, most vividly declared that he was subservient to the party, there is no denying the fact that his persona would dominate politics and governance in times to come as it dominated poll campaign.
No prime minister, leave alone a prime minister-designate, has shown the courage to act on his own to engage his counterpart from Pakistan, the most challenging gradient of Indian diplomacy. Though diplomatic observers initially said that the government would be under-prepared to receive heads of state, the decisive move, on the other hand, has made it clear that despite a different ideological grounding, Narendra Modi could walk an extra mile to engage. He has made the calculated move even at the risk of annoying several domestic sentiments especially in Tamil Nadu, its longtime ally in Maharashtra – the Shiv Sena and the more conservative elements within his own ranks.
However, the initiative has yielded immediate diplomatic results with President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordering release of all Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody as a goodwill measure to mark the invitation to swearing-in ceremony. The beneficiaries much to the chagrin of the India Tamil leaders would be Tamil fishermen.
Earlier, Pakistan also announced the release of 151 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture ahead of the swearing-in ceremony. These are fishermen from the west coast especially Modi’s parent state of Gujarat.
With a clear majority for his party and allies pillion riding on the popular wave in support of Modi, India’s 15th Prime Minister realiSes that the opportunity to turn his tenure into a milestone on day one. As of now Modi has successfully maneuvered the first day schedule into a significant function, somewhat justifying his mentor Lal Krishna Advani’s words that ‘he (Modi) is a very good event manager.’ However events do have long term impact on history, as was Durbar of 1911, Jawaharlal Nehru addressing Parliament at the midnight hour to begin India’s tryst with destiny, Indira Gandhi hosting Palestine leader Yasser Arafat to the summit of Non-Aligned Nations and Atal Bihari Vajpayee taking a bus to Lahore.
President Pranab Mukherjee will administer the oath of office and secrecy to the 63-year-old Modi and his Council of Ministers in the presence of outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi besides leaders of various other parties and Chief Ministers of States. Modi will be heading the first government in 30 years in which a single party has the absolute majority.