Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday attended the Republic Day Parade and took the designated seat in the sixth row, prompting an angry reaction from his party that accused the government of setting aside tradition and indulging in "cheap politics".
Gandhi was seated in the sixth row, along with Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.
"The Modi government's cheap politics is for all to see. The Congress president was deliberately made to sit in the sixth row, after initially assigning him a fourth-row seat, at the Republic Day celebrations by the arrogant rulers, who set aside all past traditions. For us the celebration of the Constitution is foremost," Congress' communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet posted in Hindi.
मोदी सरकार की ओछी राजनीति जग ज़ाहिर!
कांग्रेस अध्यक्ष श्री राहुल गांधी को गणतंत्र दिवस के राष्ट्रीय पर्व पर अंहकारी शासकों ने सारी परंपराओं को दरकिनार करके पहले चौथी पंक्ति और फिर छठी पंक्ति में जानबूझकर बिठाया।
Congress sources said the party presidents, including Sonia Gandhi who handed over the party reins to Rahul Gandhi in December last year, had always been seated in the front row at the Republic Day Parade.
"It's sad if those in power think somebody's stature is decided by where that person is seated," Khurshid said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Khurshid said India values protocols, but beyond protocols "there is something called good manners".
"Rahul Gandhi is not just a Congress MP anymore. He is also the president of India's largest opposition party. And if the ruling party doesn't understand that position, it is unfortunate," he added.
Former prime ministers H D Deve Gowda and Manmohan Singh were seen seated in the front row in the picture, followed by Union ministers Smriti Irani and Thawarchand Gehlot.
Government sources, meanwhile, said that as per the protocol, the Leader of Opposition is accorded a seat in the seventh row.
India on Friday celebrated its 69th Republic Day with a grand display of the country's military might and rich cultural diversity in the presence of leaders from all the ASEAN nations, in a historic first and unprecedented strategic outreach to the powerful bloc.
This was for the first time that leaders from 10 countries attended the annual celebrations as chief guests, and the overwhelming presence of the ASEAN leadership is seen as a reflection of India's growing stature as a major power in the region where China has been expanding its footprint.
Last year, Sonia Gandhi was assigned a seat in the front row and was seen sitting along with BJP president Amit Shah. The BJP president was seated in the front row in the function on Friday.