Outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind posing with the new President Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. (AFP)
New Delhi: Draped in a traditional Santhali sari, having green and red borders on a white background, that boasted of a rich tribal culture, Droupadi Murmu took the oath as the 15th President of India on Monday in a packed Central Hall of Parliament. She was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana in the presence of former President Ram Nath Kovind, vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers, governors, the leaders of Opposition parties, chief ministers, diplomats and the top ranks of the Indian armed forces. Also present was former President Pratibha Patil.
Accompanied by outgoing President Kovind, vice-president Naidu and the Lok Sabha Speaker, Ms Murmu walked in with grace through Parliament’s well-decorated corridors to the Central Hall where she sat with poise on the dais next to Mr Kovind. Ms Murmu took the oath of office in the name of God in Hindi to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law". The new President was accorded a 21-gun salute, after which she signed the oath register amidst thunderous applause and thumping of desks.
"Reaching the post of President is not my personal achievement, it is the achievement of every poor (person) in India. It is the power of our democracy that a daughter born in a poor house, a daughter born in a remote tribal area, can reach the highest constitutional post of India. My election is proof of the fact that the poor in India can have dreams and fulfil them too," President Murmu said in her maiden speech after taking the oath. She added that tribals, the deprived and the marginalised were seeing their reflection in her. She started her speech with the traditional tribal greeting of "Johar", and followed it with "Namaskar".
Leaders from across the world, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe, congratulated President Murmu on her assumption of office.
Hailing from the Santhal community, Ms Murmu is the first tribal leader to reach the office of President. She is also the first President who was born in independent India. Her term of office will be of five years till July 24, 2027, though the rules allow for her re-election. President Murmu will have the power to promulgate ordinances, grant pardons and sign proclamations of emergency in states and the country on the advice of the Union council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister. She is also the Supreme Commander of the Indian armed forces.
After the short ceremony, Ms Murmu and Mr Kovind then stepped out of the Central Hall amid the roll of drums and the blowing of trumpets. Ms Murmu was then accorded the "national salute" by the President’s Bodyguard at Gate No. 5 of Parliament House. The new President and her predecessor left in a ceremonial procession to Rashtrapati Bhavan, where at the forecourt Ms Murmu inspected the tri-services guard of honour. Later in the evening, former President Kovind was given a formal farewell with the inspection of a guard of honour drawn from all the three services.
Mr Kovind and his family then moved to his post-retirement residence at 12 Janpath, a bungalow that was once occupied
by former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
"As part of convention, honoured to receive former President respected Ram Nath Kovind ji at his new residence, 12 Janpath, New Delhi, accompanied by Rastrapati, Hon’ble Droupadi Murmu ji," Law Minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted. He also shared pictures in which BJP president J.P. Nadda, along with Union ministers Hardeep Puri and Gen. V.K. Singh too were seen receiving Mr Kovind at 12 Janpath, where incidentally he will be the next door neighbour of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.