Union Minister Pralhad Joshi on Monday said Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was provided the seat in the first row at the swearing-in ceremony of President Droupadi Murmu. Joshi said when Kharge complained that his seat was in the corner, the staff offered to move him to the centre, but he refused.
"It's been alleged that there was a violation of protocol during the Presidential oath-taking ceremony. The ceremony is organised by Home Ministry. There is an order of precedent. Going by that, the Leader of Opposition should be seated in third row," the Union Minister said.
"To respect the position of Mallikarjun Kharge, he was provided with a seat in the first row. When he still complained that it was on the corner, the staff offered to move him to the centre, but he refused," he added.
Joshi further claimed that Kharge was on Saturday invited for the farewell function of outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind and was allotted a seat close to the Prime Minister. However, he did not show up. "In a way, it was an insult to the outgoing President, the Chairman & the Speaker," he added.
Joshi's clarification came after several Opposition leaders today wrote to the Rajya Sabha chairman claiming that Kharge was not accorded a seat commensurate with his position during the swearing-in ceremony of Murmu.
The leaders, including those from the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Rashtriya Janata Dal, were signatories to the letter and expressed shock at "deliberate disrespect" shown to Kharge.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh shared the letter on Twitter and said, "Letter submitted to Hon'ble Chairman, Rajya Sabha by all Opposition Parties (including TMC) just now."
"Today, at the swearing-in ceremony of the Hon'ble President, Shri Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha was made to sit in a seat not commensurate with the position he holds," the Opposition leaders said in their letter.
"We are writing to express our shock and protest at this deliberate disrespect shown to a very senior leader violating the warrant of precedence and not in accordance with protocol courtesies due to him," the leaders said.