President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday called senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to clarify that “no disrespect” was shown to them at the reception hosted at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the occasion of Independence Day on Wednesday.
The President’s Office said Mr. Mukherjee made telephone calls to party supremo L.K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, and Arun Jaitley, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
“The President explained that whatever arrangements were made were as per past precedent and no discourtesy was shown. The BJP leaders were seated in the VIP enclosure, where they had with them senior Cabinet Ministers. The President has, however, taken note of their unhappiness, and told them that there will be a review of seating arrangements in future,” said V. Rajamony, Press Secretary to the President.
Several BJP leaders had expressed resentment that party seniors weren’t accommodated under the special canopy where the President, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and several dignitaries sat during the reception.
Row over seat
What were initially murmurs of displeasure began to gain strength after several senior party leaders expressed unhappiness at the treatment given to Mr. Advani, who along with his spouse, wasn’t offered a seat within the President’s enclosure.
What compounded Wednesday’s discomfort was a previous incident, when Mr. Advani wasn’t initially offered a seat in the front row during the swearing-in ceremony of Mr. Ansari on August 11.
Commenting on what the BJP perceived as a gaffe, senior leader Yashwant Sinha said the incident was a painful and an eminently avoidable situation.