NEW DELHI: With the dust still to be resolved over the controversy over Rahul Gandhi’s sixth-row seat on Republic Day, on Monday the head of Congress received a front row seat in the Central Hall of Parliament. The occasion was the president’s speech at the joint session of both houses when the budget session began. The budget of the Union to be announced on February 1 is the last complete budget before next year’s general elections.
During the one-hour speech by President Ram Nath Kovind, the first in parliament, Gandhi was restless and was seen talking to Major Party leader Mallikarjun Kharge. His mother, Sonia Gandhi, who was also granted a seat in the front row along with BJP patriarch LK Advani, hit her desk to show her appreciation when the president’s speech ended.
The former president of Congress was warmly welcomed by Mr. Advani when he arrived to take his seat. The two were seen talking when the show ended. The former head of Congress was also received by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale. Union Minister Smriti Irani was seen shaking hands with Advani, but did not greet Sonia Gandhi.
Congress made its discontent felt after his boss had a seat in the sixth row for the Republic Day parade on Friday. The party leaders called it a “deliberate humiliation” of its new president.
“Rahul Gandhi is no longer just a congressman, he is also the president of India’s largest opposition party, and if the ruling party does not understand that position, it is unfortunate,” said party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Gandhi’s office said that the leader had insisted that it did not matter where he was sitting.
The BJP said it was a convention that the leader of the largest opposition party is seated in the seventh row. But he has not responded to the other congressional accusation: that the government did not facilitate any meeting between visiting foreign dignitaries and opposition leaders.