The President’s secretariat was recently stumped when First Lady Savita Kovind wanted to write a letter to the wives’ welfare association of a paramilitary force. The dilemma for the staff- there was no prior template for such a communication.
“It was a ceremonial letter being sent by the First Lady to the CISF wives’ welfare association. The rule is that precedent is followed, so a search for a similar correspondence by the previous First Lady was launched. However, no such correspondence was available,” said an official.
The former First Lady was Pranab Mukherjee’s wife Suvra who passed away in 2015 after ailing for some time. Just before Mukherjee, Pratibha Patil was the president. Her predecessor was A P J Abdul Kalam who was bachelor.
Sources said the staff had to finally rely on correspondence by Usha Narayanan, wife of former President KR Narayanan. “Correspondence by Usha Narayanan was used as a template for the letter finally. The letter to the CISF wives’ welfare association is part of the ceremonial correspondence that the First Lady has been penning in the past one month,” said the official.
Officials, who had been part of Mukherjee’s team during his presidency, admitted that the First Lady had been ailing for some time. “But in the first few years of the presidency, the First Lady was active and participated in the activities. She also corresponded with several dignitaries, including Michelle Obama,” reminisced a former official of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Sources say the current First Lady has kept a low profile, and has been participating only in those activities where her role is required.
Rajvanshi Devi, wife of India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad (from 1950 until 1962) kept a very low profile and even stayed away from public events. Sources said Saraswati Bai, wife of India’s 4th President VV Giri was the first one to take a more public role as the First Lady. She attended and hosted events and became a recognizable public figure.