M A I N   N E W S

President Pranab takes charge
At impressive swearing-in, new Prez focuses on tackling poverty, pushing growth
Anita Katyal/TNS

Didi comes for Dada

After bitterly opposing Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature, key UPA ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee attended his oath-taking ceremony. Mamata, who reached Delhi on Tuesday night in a special plane sent by the Centre, went straight to Mukherjee’s residence and the two reportedly chatted till midnight. Actor Mithun Chakraborty, who is said to be Mukherjee’s mascot, was among a host of persons who came to witness the swearing-in of the country’s first Bengali President.

The Pomp And the Big show

Before the swearing-in, Pranab was driven to the Rashtrapati Bhawan in a black limousine
Both Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil were given the national salute by members of the three Services lined along the road leading to Raisina Hill
The two then left for Parliament House in a cavalcade. After the function, Mukherjee inspected his first guard of honour in a horse-driven buggy
Later, the new President escorted his predecessor to her new residence at Tughlaq Lane. Patil will stay there for some months before she moves to her residence in Pune

New Delhi, July 25
After five decades in active politics, Pranab Mukherjee today began a new innings when he took oath of office as India’s 13th President at an impressive ceremony in the historic Central Hall of Parliament. As he himself later put it, it is a journey “from the flicker of a lamp in a small Bengal village to the chandeliers of Delhi.”

Attired in a black sherwani and white churidar, 76-year-old Mukherjee was administered the oath by Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia in the presence of a huge gathering which included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, all ministers, UPA partners, Opposition leaders, Governors and many Chief Ministers. Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar were among the Opposition leaders who especially flew down for this occasion.

The ceremony began with the arrival of Pranab Mukherjee along with outgoing President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and the Chief Justice. Soon after being seated on the dais, the veteran Congress leader took oath.

Pranab then exchanged chairs with Pratibha Patil while a thunderous applause echoed through the high dome Central Hall. As soon as he assumed the top Constitutional post, a 21-gun salute was offered to Pranab. It was an announcement that the country had got a new President.

In his acceptance speech, Mukherjee underlined that his high office demands that he must rise “above personal or partisan interests in the service of the national good” and vowed to “to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution.”

Touching upon issues ranging from hunger to global terrorism, Mukherjee unveiled his vision of a modern India, which, he said, is built on fundamentals of secular values, economic equity and gender equality.

The speech bore Mukherjee’s distinctive imprint as he made a passing but telling reference to the touchy issue of tackling poverty and pushing growth. Stating that there is no humiliation more abusive than hunger, the new President underlined, “Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor. We must lift those at the bottom so that poverty is erased from the dictionary of modern India.”

Mukherjee, who was the Finance Minister till last month, was known for his conservative views which have been at variance with those of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who believes in economic liberalisation. While those with socialist moorings contend that people at the bottom of the pyramid have to be pulled out of their poverty stricken condition by adopting a “bottom-up” approach, others pushing for economic reforms maintain that poverty can be erased by pushing for high growth as its benefits would percolate down to the poorest.

Mukherjee’s remark did not go unnoticed by Congress leaders who believe he will not be a “rubber stamp” President but will carefully scrutinise all the legislations sent to the Rashtrapati Bhawan for approval.

With Team Anna beginning another indefinite fast to press for the passage of the Lokpal Bill and action against tainted ministers, corruption too found a mention in Mukherjee’s speech. “Corruption is an evil that can depress the nation’s mood and sap its progress. We cannot allow our progress to be hijacked by the greed of a few,” he said.

Not forgetting that as President he is also the supreme commander of the armed forces, Mukherjee made a special reference to their role in the battle against terrorism.” I am proud of the valour, conviction and steely determination of our armed forces as they have fought this menace on our border,” he said.





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