Rashtrapati Bhavan has reiterated that a front row seat had been reserved for Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at the swearing-in ceremony of the Narendra Modi government, prompting speculation among political circles in Maharashtra over whether NCP claims of an “insult" was the result of a genuine misunderstanding or a deliberate political tantrum.
The NCP, however, maintains that the clarification—reissued on Wednesday—should have been made earlier to clear the confusion.
Ashok Malik, press secretary to the President of India, tweeted on Wednesday that a seat in the “V section" referring to the VVIP guests had been reserved for Pawar at last week’s ceremony. “Even within V, he had a labelled first row seat. Someone in his office may have confused V (for VVIP) for the Roman V (five)," Malik said.
The NCP chief gave the swearing-in a miss after NCP functionaries claimed he was alloted a seat in the fifth row. Most top politicians including United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, BJP veterans L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Sushma Swaraj, and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray were seated in the first row.
The NCP called this an “insult" to the veteran politician and some said that it amounted to an insult to Maharashtra. “We said at the time of the swearing-in itself that this confusion shouldn’t have been created in the first place. It is okay that they have issued a clarification now but it would have been better if it had come earlier," NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told Mint.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said the NCP had blown the issue out of proportion. “We said it on that day itself that the invites for the events at the Rashtrapati Bhavan are issued by the honourable President of India’s office and the political dispensation of the day has nothing to do with it. Also, how does the imagined insult to Pawar saheb amount to an insult to Maharashtra? There is a limit to exploiting things for political benefits," Upadhye said.