Former PMs, key senior leaders likely to skip Independence Day ‘At Home’ event due to Covid-19

For the first time, no former Indian Prime Minister is likely to attend the ‘At Home’ reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday — an event that usually attracts the who’s who of the national capital.

According to officials involved in the event, former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and HD Devegowda are unlikely to attend the event that will see a subdued gathering of 110 people at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Convention Centre.

For the first time, the customary function will see no spouses of the invitees, no live food counters, no freedom fighters and no free interaction with VVIPs—several new rules of a new normal, protocol-wrapped ceremony, amid the pandemic.

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Apart from Singh and Devegowda, some other VVIPs may also skip the event. Union home minister Amit Shah, who has put himself in home isolation according to the advice will not come.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was recently admitted in the hospital is also unlikely to attend the event. She also did not attend the flag hoisting ceremony at the Congress headquarters on Saturday morning and in her absence, former defence minister AK Antony hoisted the flag.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee, who is still on a ventilator after a life-saving brain surgery, is another invitee who will be missing the event.

According to officials, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is likely to remain absent. According to his aides, Azad is avoiding large gatherings. He too, could not be seen at the flag hoisting ceremony at the party headquarters.

A total of about 100 guests, including 26 Corona warriors, have been invited for the programme that will start with a brief speech by President Ram Nath Kovind hailing the Covid warriors.

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Refreshment including traditional delicacies such as samosas, dhokla, along with tea, would be served by a limited number of waiters who have been tested negative for Covid-19. All guest tables would be named after rivers of India and each guest would be ushered into his or her assigned place.

The guest list has been heavily pruned to a maximum 90 from the normal gathering of 1,500 dignitaries. The duration for the event is likely to be reduced to barely an hour from the normal schedule of two to two and a half hours, said an official.

“There would be a minimum celebration for the sake of holding the event. We have applied a rationale or logic while selecting the limited number of guests, but as a large number of dignitaries could not be called, the selection might still look like a random choice,” said an official.

As a result, no ministers of state (MoSs) have been invited. Even all cabinet ministers may not get a chance to enjoy the Rashtrapati Bhavan hospitalities on August 15. “Apart from the Prime Minister, the members of the cabinet committee on security (defence, home, external affairs and finance) and a select few senior cabinet ministers would be called. The list of ministers may not go beyond ten VVIPs,” said the official.

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