New Delhi: Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and BJP MP Subramanian Swamy found themselves on the same side as the two leaders joined the chorus suggesting cancellation of the Republic Day festivities after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled his India visit due to the COVID-19 situation in the UK.
Johnson, who was scheduled to attend the Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi as chief guest, cancelled his visit to India later this month due to the growing health crisis created by the new coronavirus variant in the UK.
"Now that @BorisJohnson's visit to India this month has been cancelled due to the COVID Second Wave, & we don't have a Chief Guest on Republic Day, why not go one step farther & cancel the festivities altogether?" Tharoor asked Twitter on Tuesday night.
"Getting crowds to cheer the parade as usual would be irresponsible," he said.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy expressed similar sentiments, saying that the government needs to cancel the parade as it is unfair on the particpants.
"Modi government needs to cancel the Republic Day Parade. It is unfair on the parade particpants. We should have done it earlier so that we could have requested PM Boris to come instead for the 2022 Republic Day," Swamy tweeted.
BJP slams Tharoor for suggestion
Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi slammed Tharoor for suggesting that Republic day celebrations should be cancelled. The Minister termed Tharoor's remark "utterly irresponsible".
"It is the most irresponsible statement by Shashi Tharoor, let Congress reply on it. Republic Day is the most inspiring day. Unfortunate that he has tweeted this. Shashi Tharoor pokes his nose in every issue," Joshi told ANI.
He informed that all the necessary precautions will be taken keeping the pandemic situation in mind and that the Defence Ministry is working on logistics to have safe festivities on Republic Day.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra also criticised the Congress MP for the same.
"Mr Tharoor, Republic Day Parade is not just any “Festivity” that it ought to be cancelled! Further Rahul couldn’t cancel his festivities & continues to travel to “farther” destinations often but the Congress wants Republic Day to be cancelled?" he said.
Johnson cancels India visit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephonic conversation with Johnson on Tuesday, during which the British leader reiterated his thanks for India's invitation to him as the chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations, but regretted his inability to attend.
Johnson's call with Modi came a day after he addressed the nation to announce a new stay-at-home lockdown in the UK as his medical chiefs warned that the National Health Service was under threat of being overwhelmed by the rising infection rates.
Last month Johnson had accepted PM Modi's invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade on January 26.
While accepting Modi's invitation, Johnson had extended an invite to the Indian Prime Minister to attend the UK's G7 Summit as one of three guest nations alongside South Korea and Australia - with a focus on his declared ambition to work with a group of "like-minded democracies" to advance shared interests and tackle common challenges.
Last month, Johnson had written to Modi to formally accept his invitation to visit India as Chief Guest at the Republic Day Parade, which was to mark his first major bilateral visit since taking office in 2019 and the first since Britain's formal exit from the European Union (EU) at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020.
"I am absolutely delighted to be visiting India next year at the start of an exciting year for Global Britain, and look forward to delivering the quantum leap in our bilateral relationship that Prime Minister Modi and I have pledged to achieve," Johnson said at the time.
"As a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet," he said.
It followed Modi's invitation to Johnson in a phone call in November 2020, ahead of UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab's precursor tour of India to lay the groundwork for the prime ministerial level talks.
(With PTI inputs)