Pranab Mukherjee sworn in as 13th President of India

Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Mukherjee, who has had an active political career spanning five decades, today became the 13th President of India pledging to protect the Constitution and rise above personal or partisan interests.

The 76-year-old leader, who is the first leader from Bengal to become President, was administered the oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend the constitution and law" by Chief Justice of India Sarosh Homi Kapadia at an impressive ceremony in the historic Central Hall of Parliament.

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The veteran leader, who had played significant roles in government, party and Parliament in his long political career, took the oath in English in the name of God to a thunderous applause and thumping of desks by those in the packed Central Hall.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, Speaker Meira Kumar, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and outgoing President Pratibha Patil, Cabinet Ministers, leaders of opposition, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Governors, Chief Ministers, MPs and diplomats were present in the ceremony.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who announced her party's support to Mukherjee at the last moment, and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose party JD(U) broke ranks with NDA, also attended the function.

Shortly after he assumed office, it was announced that Omita Paul, his long-time aide, was appointed as Secretary to the President.

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In his brief acceptance address, he said the principal responsibility of this office is to function as the guardian of the Constitution.

"I will strive to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution not just in word but in spirit," Mukherjee said in his speech that was punctuated by repeated thumping of desks and applause.

"I am deeply moved by the high honour you have accorded to me. Such honour exalts the occupant of this office, even as it demands that he rises above personal or partisan interests in the service of the national good," he said.

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