President’s Body Guard has been practicing and rehearsing

The guest wing of the Rashtrapati Bhavan has been opened up and is being readied for India’s 13 President. Rooms are being decorated, rid of even the smallest specs of dust and refurbished for the new First Family that will move into the luxurious living space after the new President takes the oath of office on Wednesday.

President Pratibha Patil will move out on the same day from the impressive family quarters of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan. As per protocol, she will be accompanied by the new President and a posse of officials to her new address on Tuglak Lane.

“The new First Family will stay in the guest wing, till the family wing gets ready,” said an official. Apart from the customary cleaning and refurbishing, the First Family gets to choose how their living quarters will be decorated.

Elsewhere in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, excitement and anxiety intermingle as preparations for the big day get under way. There is a steely silence on what preparations are being made to welcome the new occupants of the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge. “Till the name is officially announced and the oath administered we cannot say anything,” said an official, declining to comment on changes that will be seen in the family quarters and the kitchen.

The President’s Body Guard has been practising and rehearsing, these men will present the National Salute first outside Parliament and then again inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Each step, each tune, each move has been rehearsed adroitly; there is no scope for a mistake.

“All attention will be on the PBG and we have to present a sterling and flawless presentation. The presentation, till the last detail, has been diligently put together… all men and even the mount are trained to put their best forward,” said the official.

Even the historic ‘buggy’ and the gleaming limousines are being spruced up for the big event.

The ceremony, of welcoming the new and bidding adieu to the old, emerges as a pageant bound by protocols and marked by courtesies.

“On Monday, the Secretary and the Military Secretary to the President will ask the President-designate to choose a time for the swearing in ceremony. On the day of the ceremony itself, elaborate arrangements are made, right from the time President Patil steps out of her study to reach Parliament where the new President will be administered the oath of office by the Chief Justice of India,” said the official.

Officials have been handed out reams of paper, detailing how the President and the President-elect will travel to Parliament, who will be seated where, whose permission is to be sought for the ceremonies to begin and end, right till the exchange of seats.

“The oath ceremony begins with the Home Secretary seeking the permission of the President to read out the communication from the Election Commission, indicating the name of the President-elect. This is followed by the CJI administering the oath and seats are exchanged in Parliament. The new President signs the oath register and the Home Secretary announces the proclamation. The ceremony concludes with the outgoing President’s address,” the official said.

Outside Parliament the PBG will present the National Salute, following which Ms. Patil and the new President will be driven in a limousine to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

At the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the PBG will again present the National Salute to the new President; a guard of honour will be presented to the outgoing President.

Pratibha’s portrait

Preparations are also in full swing at artist R.N. Singh’s studio where a portrait of Ms. Patil is being readied. As is the practice, the outgoing President’s portrait will be hung in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Ms. Patil’s portrait will hang alongside A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s in the Loggia between the Ashoka Hall and the Banquet Hall.

“The portrait is being done using oils, it will be a standing pose and will be ready in 45 days,” said the artist, who was chosen from among several renowned names.

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