NEW DELHI, Jan 26 (IANS): US President Barack Obama accompanied by his wife Michelle were the star guests at President Pranab Mukherjee's traditional At Home reception on the manicured lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan here Monday, an event that was briefer than usual and saw a much-trimmed guest list than before.
Amid stricter than usual security, with Indian security and US Secret Service personnel firmly keeping invited guests from pushing at the ribbon-barricade dividing them from the VVIPs, the US president and his wife mingled with the members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and also with former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Obama and Michelle, who attended the two-hour-long Republic Day celebrations earlier in the day, made it a point to shake hands and greet the members of the National Democratic Alliance government who turned up for the At Home.
They included External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore among others.
While Obama was dressed in a formal dark suit, Michelle was wearing an off-white smart dress with small floral prints.
Modi was attired in a cream-coloured churidar-kurta, matched with a dark orange sleeveless jacket and a cream coloured shawl thrown across his shoulders.
The At Home this year lasted around 35-40 minutes, shorter than the one-hour event it usually is.
The reason: both Modi and Obama had to rush to the Taj Palace Hotel to attend two back-to-back business events with top CEOs from both India and the US in attendance held in the evening.
Both Modi and Obama were to address the India-US CEOs Forum and an Indo-US Business Summit.
There were around 1,400 guests this time, according to the president's press secretary Venu Rajamony. Previous At Home events have seen 2,000-plus guests in attendance.
After meeting the ministers, Obama took a turn towards the invited gathering comprising envoys, diplomats, top government officials and cultural aficionados.
It looked for a moment as though he was about to go forward and meet the eagerly waiting guests, but the US president waved back and went back to his seat, as did his wife Michelle.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, dressed smartly in a black sari with a red border with a black coat to match, stood out with her quiet elegance.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur were also there. Both Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had met Obama before the At Home.