New Delhi, May 22: Everyone in the BJP wants to attend Narendra Modi’s Monday swearing-in but the party is struggling with its guest list, the President’s office having set the standard ceiling of 1,250.
That’s the maximum that the venue, Rashtrapati Bhavan’s forecourt, can accommodate after the President’s office follows protocol by inviting another 1,250 guests.
The hopefuls range from the members of the BJP national executive and the national council to the party’s state and district officials and representatives of front organisations.
Party general secretary Ananth Kumar and colleague J.P. Nadda have been trying to prune the list without causing too much heartburn.
Among the guests will be the 777 MPs (234 of the Rajya Sabha and 543 of the Lok Sabha) who, mercifully for the BJP, figure on the President’s list. Like every year, the MPs have been told they cannot bring their spouses along.
It seems that the BJP lawmakers had protested to their leaders but were told that nothing could be done.
The ministers to be sworn in with Modi can bring just four family members each. The Prime Minister-designate is, of course, an exception. Unofficially, he can bring as many as 20 from his family.
However, given the distance Modi keeps from his family, rarely visiting even his mother Hiraben who lives with his younger brother Pankaj in Gandhinagar, BJP sources weren’t sure whether any --- or how many --- of them might show up.
They said that Hiraben, who is 92, might come if she was physically fit enough and in that case there would be family members accompanying her. She had travelled in an auto-rickshaw to cast her vote this election.
Modi had wished to take her to Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela in February 2013 but scrapped the trip after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other sadhus raised slogans demanding he be named the prime ministerial candidate.
The BJP was initially inclined to invite all the chief ministers, including those from the Congress-ruled states, but there’s some uncertainty now. Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, who has a good rapport with Modi, sounded iffy following the invite to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Sources said the BJP might now ask only the NDA chief ministers to come to spare itself “embarrassment”. But the possible absence of many chief ministers will do little to ease the pressure on the guest list.
Waiting in the wings are the 76 members of the BJP national executive. No such hopes for the national council delegates though; it’s been decided to leave them out.
A “huge” Gujarat contingent has booked air and train tickets out of Gandhinagar, hoping to fete and cheer Modi for the umpteenth time. Till late tonight, the BJP managers here had no idea just how many they were.
From the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, only joint general secretary Suresh Soni --- the point man who regularly mediates between the Sangh and the BJP ---- is expected at the event. The rest, including chief Mohanrao Bhagwat and his second-in-command, Suresh Joshi, have left Delhi to attend the sangha shiksha vargas (officials’ training camps) in various places.
The President’s invitees include ambassadors and envoys and former Presidents A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil. Leaders from all major political parties too are expected to show up.
The 70-minute ritual will be followed by tea served in three separate enclosures: one for the super elite, another for diplomats and the third for the media.
The big question buzzing in the BJP’s head is: will Sonia and Rahul Gandhi turn up and greet Modi personally?