President Pranab's R-Day 'at home' with a difference



New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee's first Republic Day 'At Home' at the Rashtrapati Bhavan this evening knew no boundaries as he freely mingled with one and all.

Mukherjee came out of the VVIP enclosure and met as many guests as possible individually, a gesture that was widely appreciated.

"This is what's called as people's President," said Union Minister Farooq Abdullah.

The President greeted Abdullah and enquired about his health and thanked him for his comments.

The security personnel of the President also did not pose any hurdles for those who wanted to greet him at the event which saw a huge turnout of nearly 2,000 people.

Other VVIPs including Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar besides this year's Republic Day Chief Guest King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his wife Queen Jetsun Pema also mingled with the guests.

Mukherjee met dignitaries and diplomatic corps in the sprawling Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan as soon as the rendition of National Anthem ended.

After this, the President settled in the VVIP enclosure where Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with his wife Gursharan Kaur, Sonia Gandhi, Meira Kumar and Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde were seated.

BJP leader L K Advani along with his entire family was present at the occasion.

93-year-old Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh was seen moving and shaking hands with guests and was definitely the eye-catcher for the officers from the Defence services.

The three Service chiefs -- General Bikram Singh, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and Admiral D K Joshi-- were seen mingling with the guests as was Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Farooq Abdullah.

The security barricade which was conspicuous during the tenure of Mukehrjee's predecessor Pratibha Patil was less this time allowing people to move freely in the Mughal gardens.

The President set the ball rolling for eliminating security barricading at functions at Rashtrapati Bhavan during a recent dinner hosted for Heads of various Missions in the country.

During the dinner, any head of the mission could walk up either to the President or other VVIPs present at the function, a move which was welcomed by the diplomatic corps.

PTI