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Stars & business tsars cheer Mulayam

Lucknow, Aug. 29: A helicopter showered rose petals from the sky while the modern gods of India’s pantheon, Bollywood superstars and captains from the corporate world, sat cheering among the audience.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s inauguration as chief minister on the banks of the Gomti looked more like a 21st century version of a king’s coronation in times past.

Amitabh Bachchan was present on the occasion with wife Jaya, son Abhishek, daughter Shweta and her husband. Actress Jayaprada flew in with the Bachchans early this morning to attend the function.

Actor-politician and Samajwadi MP Raj Babbar had been camping here since yesterday for the swearing-in.

Reliance managing director Anil Ambani and wife Tina lent the corporate touch. Godrej chairman Adi Godrej and socialite wife Parmeshwar were also present, with Sahara Group’s Subroto Roy playing host and cheerleader.

The political elite was represented by defence minister George Fernandes and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar.

“Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh was invited but couldn’t come due to health reasons,” Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh said.

The celebrities occupied the front rows, while the lesser lights, comprising members of the Samajwadi Party’s Lohia Vahini and other party outfits along with curious bystanders dotted the riverbed. A bottle of Bisleri in hand, they shouted: “Dharti putra Mulayam amar rahe.”

Party supporters were ecstatic that the Samajwadi president was chief minister once again, after more than eight years. But their sights were not trained on the dais alone where Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri swore in Mulayam in a short ceremony. They jostled for a closer look at Amitabh and other celebrities.

The local administration had toiled through the night to scrub off the cobalt blue that had dominated Lucknow’s landscape for the last 15 months. Bahujan Samaj Party flags and government hoardings eulogising Mayavati were removed. Lucknow was repainted in the Samajwadi’s red and green and the city flooded with posters carrying the party’s bicycle election symbol.

The heartiest cheers for Mulayam came from the former prince of Kunda, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya.

The Independent MLA, imprisoned by Mayavati under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, watched the inauguration from a television at the Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute of Medicine here.

Raja Bhaiyya had reason to celebrate for he learnt that the anti-terror law invoked against him would be revoked.

“Immediately after the Governor invited him to form the government, Mulayam Singhji rang up… and told me that my bad days were over,” he said.

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