In a piquant situation arising out of the absence of a full-time state governor, the Centre has been forced to amend the protocol to let the Andhra Pradesh chief minister take salute at this year's Republic Day parade in Hyderabad. This will be for the first time that a state chief minister will be hoisting the national flag and taking salute at the ceremonial Republic Day parade as against the Governor.
The unprecedented move comes in the wake of a request from the Andhra Pradesh Government to permit the Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy to take salute on the Republic Day parade since Rameshwar Thakur who is presently holding additional charge as AP Governor cannot make it to Hyderabad function on Friday.
Thakur who is presently Orissa Governor has been holding the additional charge as Andhra Pradesh Governor over the last one year following the appointment of Sushil Kumar Shinde as Power Minister at the Centre on January 29 last year. The Centre has not till date appointed a full-time replacement of Shinde leaving the gubernatorial slot in Hyderabad Raj Bhavan vacant though temporarily in the hands of Thakur as his additional charge.
Protocol-driven Home Ministry officials said on condition of anonymity that the Andhra Pradesh situation called for unprecedented amendments to the norm as a one-time exception since the Orissa Governor could not obviously attend simultaneously two ceremonial functions in both Bhubneswar and Hyderabad. "The logistics of distance and ceremonial nature of the Republic Day functions left the Centre with no options except to change the existing protocol," they claimed.
Significantly, this last minute change in the protocol was preceded in the MHA by a series of official-level meetings with a final go ahead from the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil.
In a related development, MHA officials are keeling a tab on a similar situation in Delhi Union Territory where Haryana Governor AR Kidwai is presently holding the additional charge as Lt Governor. Kidwai's additional charge emanates from the fact that the present Delhi incumbent BL Joshi is on medical leave since November last year.
Kidwai who is presently in the capital is leaving for Sirsa tonight to preside over the Haryana State ceremonial function on Friday.
However, the issue is less complex since the Delhi Lt Governor unfurls the national flag at a brief ceremonial function at the Raj Niiwas before driving down to Rajpath for the national parade. Delhi UT's ceremonial early morning function is later followed by a cultural extravaganza in the late afternoon at the Chhatarasal stadium with the Delhi chief minister in attendance.
It is to be seen who deputizes for the Delhi Raj Niwas function in the absence of Kidwai.
The existing protocol mandates that the state governor will take the salute at the Republic Day parade in the state capital as against the Independence Day celebrations that are reserved for the state chief ministers. Similarly, the district collectors preside over the Republic Day functions at the district headquarters as against the Independence Day-related ceremonies that are reserved for the state ministers hailing from the district or nominated by the chief minister.
The protocol is in tandem with the national practice wherein the President takes the salute at the Republic Day parade in the capital as against the Independence Day function wherein the Prime Minister addresses the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort after unfurling the tricolour.
Email Jay Raina: jraina @hindustantimes.com