New Delhi, May 23: It was a moment that said it all for the first family of Indian politics.
As the swearing-in ceremony at the majestic Ashoka Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan concluded on Friday evening, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, general secretary Rahul walked out and were joined by her daughter Priyanka who gave her a hug and then the three smiled at one another.
Once the official function was over, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul walked together, his hand on her shoulder, as they approached the ante-room where refreshments were served. By that time President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already taken their seats.
Priyanka, accompanied by her husband Robert Vadra, who was just a few steps away, immediately caught up and looking purposefully in her mother’s eye gave her a hug and planted a kiss on her cheek. The three then smiled at each other – a recognition that this was their moment that they wanted to savour.
It was a relaxed Sonia Gandhi who laughed gregariously, greeted ministers and bureaucrats alike warmly and did not shy away from taking any questions from the media.
“Everything will be Ok,” she said smilingly when a scribe asked her on relations with the key ally, the DMK.
On one occasion she even poked fun at Rahul, when someone asked her whether there was a future roadmap for the Congress. “Ask him,” pointing to her 38-year-old son, “He should be knowing.” Pat came the reply. “Why are you passing questions to me? That’s not fair,” said Rahul Gandhi.
But even as they joked, assured in the knowledge that it was the Congress-led alliance that would be in power for the next five years, there was a festive air all around.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, who chose to be in the vicinity of the Gandhi family, was exchanging pleasantries and did not look forlorn. Even Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan looked at ease.
When Priyanka, dressed in a striking purple sari, passed by, Lalu Prasad broke away from a small gathering and told her: “Badhaiyan (congratulations), Priyankaji, badhaiyan.” And she responded by giving a toothy smile.
Rahul Gandhi, who was clearly the cynosure of all eyes, and whom everyone wanted to shake hands with or pass on their visiting cards to, considering the pivotal role he played in the party’s stupendous electoral performance, was enjoying the snacks.
He turned the other way around when anyone asked him whether he is taking over as minister.
But he was more forthcoming when asked what his role would be now that the Congress party had won and government formation was half-done.
“Elections come and go. My first job is to strengthen the Congress party,” he said.
As the 19 cabinet ministers trooped into Ashoka Hall, they gave bear hugs to their friends, milled around and some even guffawed.
S. Jaipal Reddy was at his convivial best while Anand Sharma, who is a strong contender for the information and broadcasting ministry portfolio, spent adequate time with the press corps.
However, the spectacle of former home minister Shivraj Patil standing alone in a corner of the huge hall in his trademark white bandhgala was not such a happy sight.(IANS)