Panchkula: Swearing in ceremonies for chief ministers are normally official occasions going with a lot of protocol. But the swearing-in of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was a departure from this routine.
First, the event, instead of being held at the Haryana Raj Bhawan as is the routine, was held at the Mela ground in Panchkula town's Sector 5 - so that the public could attend it.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi departed from protocol to attend the ceremony. He remained seated on a special dais erected next to the main dais where Khattar and his nine-member cabinet were sworn in by Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki.
Modi was not alone. His cabinet colleagues - Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Menaka Gandhi, Harsh Vardhan and V.K. Singh - were also present.
BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who are not seen much in the current dispensation of the BJP, were also present.
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, general secretary J.P. Nadda, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states - Shivraj Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh), Anandiben Patel (Gujarat), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) and Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan) - and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal also attended the event.
BJP leader, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was on the same stage as Badal but the two -- who don't see eye to eye in politics -- kept a distance from one another.
Vanity van for PM:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may like to keep things simple but authorities in Haryana did not want to take any chances during his visit here to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new chief minister.
Two vanity vans, normally used by film stars, were kept ready near the stage. While one was earmarked for the prime minister, the other one was for other VIPs.
Manohar Lal Khattar offered prayers at the well known Hindu temple, Mata Mansa Devi shrine, at Panchkula, before arriving at the venue.
The time given for the oath ceremony was kept at "11.23 a.m". BJP insiders said the time was chosen according to astrological predictions.
"It was a huge task to ensure that all the VVIPs arrived in Chandigarh, reached the venue and were seated before that time to ensure that the oath took place dot on time," a senior Haryana officer said.
Though the swearing-in has its own protocol, Haryana Raj Bhawan and government officials had to deal with extra-ordinary protocol issues as well. At such ceremonies, the governor enjoys the top most protocol and arrives the last. However, in this case, the prime minister and the home minister, both higher in protocol to the governor, were present. But both could not be seated on the same dais.
The authorities worked out the arrangement by putting up another dais on which Modi, Rajnath Singh, other union ministers, chief ministers of other states and other VVIPs were seated.
As per protocol, Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki came last and was the first one to leave after the ceremony.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, coming to Panchkula for the swearing-in ceremony would have brought back old memories. Modi, as in-charge of Haryana in late 1990s, used to live in a house in Sector 7 in Panchkula, just a few hundred metres from the ceremony venue.
For Modi, Panchkula and Haryana have an old association. At times, during his rallies across Haryana recently, Modi made a mention of his Haryana connection.
With so many union ministers and top BJP leaders arriving by special flights, arrangements were made to transport them quickly from the Chandigarh airport to the venue. Cars and luxury buses were arranged for them. These were escorted by siren-blaring police vehicles. Several routes in Chandigarh and Panchkula were under tight police security with so many VVIPs moving around. People, especially motorists, had to face inconvenience due to the VVIP movement.
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Singh Chautala was the only opposition leader present at the ceremony. The Congress leadership, including former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, gave the ceremony a miss. The INLD is the second largest party in the assembly.