President hosts R’Day reception, Yudhoyono ‘At Home’

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NEW DELHI - It was a blessed sunny afternoon as scores of ministers, diplomats and other top dignitaries gathered at the lawns of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Wednesday for the President’s At Home reception to celebrate the 62nd Republic Day.

Around 1,000 guests dutifully trooped into the red sandstone presidential palace in the heart of Lutyen’s Delhi Wednesday afternoon. Dressed in an elegant sari, President Pratibha Patil greeted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Vice-President Hamid Ansari also sat under a specially erected awning.

This time round, the reception was advanced to 3.30 p.m. The regulars, among them bureaucrats, military officers and journalists, soaked in the bright wintry sunshine and recalled the Independence Day reception last year, which had to be moved to the Ashoka Hall due to heavy rain.

The red-and-gold uniformed Presidential Guards played the national anthem. Military bands stirred up catchy tunes. Soon after, Patil, along with the Indonesian president, went around greeting diplomats and assembled guests.

Sporting a green tie and Indonesian topi, Yudhoyono met guests with folded hands.

Ministers, diplomats and special invitees sat in a separate VIP enclosure. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony were seen chatting with the assembled diplomatic corps.

Surprisingly, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is always present on such occasions, was not there. Neither was her son Rahul Gandhi, also Congress general secretary, seen anywhere.

This was not the first time an Indonesian leader was feted as the chief guest at the Republic Day. President Sukarno was the first chief guest at the Republic Day in 1950 and at that time, the celebrations were held at Irwin Stadium, now renamed National Stadium.

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