New Delhi [India]: As Droupadi Murmu took oath as the President of India on Monday, the Centre and Opposition parties locked horns over the seating arrangements of the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge in the Central Hall of the Parliament during the swearing-in ceremony.
All Opposition parties submitted a letter to the Rajya Sabha Chairman stating that the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was made to sit in a seat “not commensurate with the position he holds” at the swearing-in ceremony of President Murmu. In a letter to the Rajya Sabha Chairman, the Opposition said, “Today, at the swearing-in ceremony of the President, Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha was made to sit in a seat not commensurate with the position he holds.”
“We are writing to express our shock and protest at this deliberate disrespect shown to a very senior leader violating the warrant of precedence and not in accordance with protocol courtesies due to him,” the letter read.
In the swearing-in ceremony, Kharge was seen sitting next to Union ministers Narayan Rane and Sarbananda Sonowal.
The Centre on the other hand refuted the allegation of the Opposition and said the setting arrangement was made as per the order of precedence.
“It has been alleged that there was a violation of protocol during the presidential oath-taking ceremony. The ceremony is organised by the Home Ministry. There is an order of precedence. Going by that, the Leader of Opposition should be seated in the third row,” said Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.
“To respect the position of Mallikarjun Kharge, he was provided with a seat in the first row. When he still complained that it was on the corner, the staff offered to move him to the centre, but he refused. On Saturday, for the farewell function, he was duly invited. He had been allotted a seat close to the Prime Minister. But he did not show up. In a way, it was an insult to the outgoing President, the Chairman and the Speaker,” added Joshi.
During the swearing-in ceremony of Ram Nath Kovind in 2017, Kharge, who was also the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha at the time, sat next to the Union ministers.
Similarly, in 2012 during the oath-taking ceremony of Pranab Mukherjee, the then Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely sat in the same order.
Murmu is the youngest President of the country, who was born after India’s independence. She is also the first tribal leader to be elected to the highest constitutional post of the country and the second woman President of India.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana administered her the oath at a ceremony held at Parliament’s Central Hall in the presence of outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
Members of the Council of Ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, heads of diplomatic missions, Members of Parliament and principal civil and military officers of the government were also present at the swearing-in ceremony.
The 64-year-old Murmu defeated Opposition presidential candidate Yashwant Sinha to become the first tribal and the second woman to hold the top constitutional post.
President Murmu also received a ceremonial salute at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan after being sworn in as the 15th President of India.