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No protocol violation in Rahul Gandhi’s Republic Day seating: Govt

An RTI query says that Rahul Gandhi’s seat allocation in 2018 was in keeping with the convention and he was assigned an “earmarked seat along with party chiefs of all political parties”.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2018 07:09 IST
Roshan Kishore
Roshan Kishore
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Congress,Rahul Gandhi Republic Day seating
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Congress president Rahul Gandhi during an 'At Home' reception organised on the occasion of Republic Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.(PTI FILE)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi was allocated a seat in the 5th row during this year’s Republic Day parade. This was later changed to 6th row. This became a political issue. Randeep Singh Surjewala, in-charge of communications for All-India Congress Committee accused the government of petty politics by violating traditions in allocating seat to the Congress president.

A Right to Information (RTI) query filed by Hindustan Times with the Ministry of Defence shows that such charges do not hold ground.

There is a protocol in place for seating arrangement during the parade, and seats are assigned to dignitaries in accordance with a list prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs included in Article 1 to 20 of the Table of Precedence (ToP). This list, however, does not cover presidents of political parties.

Despite this there has been a convention to assign earmarked seats to presidents of national political parties.

The RTI query says that Rahul Gandhi’s seat allocation in 2018 was in keeping with the convention and he was assigned an “earmarked seat along with party chiefs of all political parties”.

His seat was changed from fifth to sixth row to ensure an aisle seat based on SPG inputs for suitability of escape route/contingency for an SPG protectee. The query categorically states that there was “no breach of protocol in earmarking of seats”. It also says that BJP presidents were assigned 11th and 10th row seats during the parade in 2013 and 2014 when the United Progressive Alliance government was in power. This suggests that Congress’s charge of this government violating protocol would apply to their previous government as well.

To be sure, there does seem to be an element of discretion in allocating front row seats during the parade. BJP president Amit Shah and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were allocated front row seats in the parade this year. Mallikarjun Kharge was seated in the second row. Shah’s seat-allocation does not add up with the query’s claim that all party chiefs were seated in the fifth row which is where Rahul Gandhi was to be seated. Sonia Gandhi and Kharge were allocated first and second row seats despite not figuring in the Warrant of Precedence, the query says.

First Published: Feb 25, 2018 07:09 IST