Prez Pranab Mukherjee hosts first 'At Home'



New Delhi: It was an 'At Home' with a difference this time with President Pranab Mukherjee mixing with the crowd and receiving wishes outside the security barricade.

During his maiden 'At Home' function, as soon as the National Anthem ended, Mukherjee met dignitaries and diplomatic corps in the sprawling Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan and walked past the barricade and mixed with non-VIPs, who greeted him.

He walked past the guests who were invited on the occasion of 66th Independence Day celebrations before settling in the VVIP enclosure where Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with his wife Gursharan Kaur, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, were seated.

BJP leaders L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shanker Prasad besides Lalu Prasad and D P Tripathi (NCP) were also present.

Immediately after, people started queuing up to meet the VVIPs in the enclosure and the entire exercise went off smoothly. R K Dhawan, who recently got married, was the first to greet the President.

Age seemed to be no barrier for 93-year-old Marshall of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh who was seen moving and shaking hands with the guests.

The three services chiefs -- General Bikram Singh, Air Chief N A K Browne and Admiral Nirmal Verma -- were seen mixing with the crowd as were Cabinet ministers A K Antony and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

The security barricade which had increased during the tenure of Pratibha Patil was lesser this time leaving lot of space for people to be in the Mughal gardens.

As the National Anthem was played for the second time signaling end of the 'At Home' function, Gandhi walked to talk to Vimla Sharma, wife of former President S D Sharma.

She spent some time with Sharma, who had come on a wheel chair to attend the function which saw a presence of nearly 1000 guests.

PTI