Congress president Rahul Gandhi watched the Republic Day parade today from the sixth row at Delhi’s Rajpath, seated closer to the masses than to dignitaries, union ministers and senior BJP leaders. “I am not bothered about where I am sitting,” he told NDTV, also dismissing as “cheap publicity” suggestions that he should buy a public ticket to make a point.
The Congress chief fared better in the evening, at the traditional at-home hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he was placed in the selected enclosure with the chief guests of the parade .He was also seen greeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
At the Republic Day parade, however, the 47-year-old was in the sixth row with Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. His security men crowded next to him, blocking the view of scores of people in the back. Amit Shah, the president of the ruling BJP, was in the front row with senior leader LK Advani.
Republic Day 2018: PM Narendra Modi thanked the Heads of State of ASEAN for attending the event
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala posted what he called a telling image of “petty politics” by the government. “The arrogant rulers deliberately seated Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the fourth row, then sixth row, on Republic Day, discarding all convention. For us celebrating the Republic is above all,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Sonia Gandhi, who was Congress president for 19 years before she handed charge to son Rahul last month, was always seated in the front row. Congress sources say it is the first time since independence that the party’s chief was not assigned a front-row seat.
Furious, the party has alleged “deliberate humiliation” of Rahul Gandhi, that too in front of world leaders.
Ten heads of state from ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were chief guests at the Republic Day parade. They were seated on a 100-foot wide stage with PM Modi.
The Congress alleges that the BJP-led government also ensured that no visiting foreign dignitary met opposition leaders, a convention followed for years.
In 2012, when the Congress was in power at the Centre, the BJP had threatened to boycott functions at the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan because its leaders were not seated at the main table with the President during an At Home that he hosted.