Central ministers snub President Mukherjee, miss Iftar reception
Can it be called a snub or is it an insult? Was it deliberate or accidental? Why would the Modi Government choose to insult President Mukherjee barely a month before he is due to step down?
Not even the Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi turned up on Friday at the Rashtrapati Bhavan when President Pranab Mukherjee hosted the annual Iftar reception after the Namaz-e-Maghrib prayer on the last Friday before Eid.
For the first time in President Mukherjee’s tenure, not a single central minister attended the reception to which they had been invited according to media reports. In fact, both attendees and media reports confirmed that the Rashtrapati Bhavan expected some of the ministers to turn up because there were chairs meant for them.
The inference is that the ministers failed to inform Rashtrapati Bhavan of their inability to attend. It was also clear that they were under instructions to give the reception a miss. The absence of even MOS (External Affairs) MJ Akbar, who hails from West Bengal and shares a warm relationship with President Mukherjee, was conspicuous, said some of those who attended.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never attended the reception in the last four years. While unofficially the explanation given is that he does not believe in ‘symbolism’, he does greet people on Eid and his office did organise contests for designing Eid greeting cards in the past.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had attended the reception in Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2014 along with others. The next two years in 2015 and 2016 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley represented the Government along with a few others.
The snub is particularly glaring because virtually all central ministers including the Prime Minister were present in the capital on Friday to be present when NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind filed his nomination.
While Home Minister Rajnath Singh is said to be nursing a fracture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was said to be busy in briefings ahead of his visit to the United States.
It is widely assumed that this was the last Iftar reception hosted at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, given the BJP and Modi Goovernment’s opposition to what they perceive as ‘minority appeasement’.
Indeed the last NDA nominee in the Rashtrapati Bhavan APJ Abdul Kalam had stopped hosting the reception on the ground that public funds should not be used for religious functions.
But the reception, traditionally attended by Ambassadors and diplomats of a large number of Islamic countries, is also seen as an occasion to meet and build relationships.