New Delhi: A day after a change of guard at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, President Ram Nath Kovind's maiden speech has become the latest friction point between the Congress and government.
Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, objected to the omission of any mention of Jawaharlal Nehru in the President's speech at the Central Hall of Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
Raising the issue, Sharma said: "Every country and society respects nation builders, so has been the culture in India; like Gandhi is respected and has the highest stature in the nation. Along with him was Jawaharlal Nehru who even went to jail.”
The Congress also objected to Mahatma Gandhi's comparison to Jan Sangh founder and RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay.
It would perhaps be the first instance in the history of Indian parliamentary democracy that speech of the apolitial head of the state has drawn political ire of the Opposition in less than 24 hours of the change of guard.
Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, replying to points raised by Sharma, objected to any references being made to the constitutional authority. Requesting the Chair to expunge Sharma's statement. Jaitley said, "The Chair must be guided by a principle that you can't have a Zero Hour run only for the benefit of TV cameras.... That is something that is happening here.”
Launching a counter attack, Jaitley accused the Congress of diverting the attention of the House as the principle opposition party “didn't want the Bofors issue to be raised in House."
It is for the second day in succession that the Congress has sought to criticise the new President. The issue was raised earlier by Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.
Addressing the gathering at the Central Hall of Parliament, Kovind, who was sworn-in as the 14th President of India, said, "I am aware that I am following in the footsteps of stalwarts such as Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. S Radhakrishnan, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, and my immediate predecessor, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, whom we address out of affection as Pranab da."
In his speech, he further remembered Mahatma Gandhi, Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as patriotic freedom fighters.
BSP chief Mayawati, in a statement released after the swearing-in ceremony, had said that President Kovind should have gone to pay tribute to Ambedkar's statue.