Ram Nath Kovind took over as India’s 14th president on Tuesday, on a day of ceremony and regalia during which he underscored that the key to India’s success was its diversity.
“In this land we find a mix of states and regions, religions, languages, cultures, lifestyles and much more. We are so different and yet so similar and united,” he said in his acceptance speech after taking oath of office in the historical Central Hall of Parliament.
The 71-year-old, who took over the highest Constitutional post in the country from Pranab Mukherjee, is the first BJP leader and the second Dalit in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Stressing on access and opportunities for the “last person and the last girl-child from an under-privileged family”, he said, “We have achieved a lot as a nation, but the effort to do more, to do better and to do faster should be relentless. This is especially so as we approach the 75th Year of our independence in 2022.”
The former Bihar governor, described variously as low profile and unassuming, said the country needs to sculpt a robust, high growth economy, an educated, ethical and shared community, and an egalitarian society, as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
The change of guard had begun early in the morning with a gentle knock on the door of Kovind’s Akbar Road residence. It was Military Secretary to the President, Major General Anil Khosla.
Khosla, who had come with a motorcade, invited Kovind and his wife Savita to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where Mukherjee received them in the study.
A few hours later, the roles had reversed and President Kovind escorted Mukherjee out of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Earlier, the then president-elect and the outgoing president had gone to the grand Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt where they were escorted to the saluting dais.
Mukherjee took the last salute of the President’s Bodyguard (PBG) with Kovind standing to his left.
The two leaders drove down Raisina Hill to the Central Hall of Parliament in the black presidential limousine with Mukherjee in the right and Kovind on the left.
Escorting them was a grand equestrian procession by the PBG, dressed in white ceremonial uniforms and blue turbans with gold ornamental work.
The road from Rashtrapati Bhavan to Parliament was lined with 1,000 jawans from all three services of the armed forces offering the traditional ‘hazaar salaam’ to the president — the supreme commander of the defence forces.