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
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
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