The government on apologised on Monday for Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Madhav’s criticism of Vice President Hamid Ansari’s absence at the Yoga Day celebrations over which the Congress accused it of playing “divisive” politics.
Union Minister Shripad Naik cited protocol to say that the vice president can’t be invited to an event where the prime minister is chief guest amid reports that the government is upset with the needless controversy triggered by Madhav’s tweets.
“Unknowingly something happens, we apologise for that. It should have been avoided. It’s a mistake, he (Madhav) agrees, he apologised. He withdrew his statement,” Naik said when asked to comment on Madhav’s controversial tweets.
About the warrant of precedence, Naik said, “When the prime minister is chief guest, then inviting the vice president is not proper. That is protocol. That’s why we did not send the invite to him. President and vice president are above the PM as per order of precedence and we cannot invite them accordingly.”
Naik is the Minister of State for AYUSH -- the ministry that organised the International Day of Yoga event at Rajpath.
Asked about the controversy and the accusation he was “targeting” the vice president, Madhav said, “As far as the tweet is concerned, it was withdrawn and the matter is closed there and ends there.”
Madhav, who was deputed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh last July to work with the BJP, said there is no further discussion on the issue from his side.
“I want the Yoga event to be remembered for millions and millions of people who have participated in it. I do not want any further controversy over it or any issue,” he told reporters in Jammu.
The vice president’s office said the matter is closed for them as Naik’s statement “seems logical”. “For us that’s the end of the matter,” it said
Congress accused BJP of playing “divisive politics” on the International Day of Yoga by targeting Ansari and demanded that Madhav tender an apology.
“The vice president has been targeted on International Yoga Day. While yoga is all inclusive, BJP has showed its divisive politics by such an action. Ram Madhav should apologise,” party spokesperson R P N Singh told reporters.
Meanwhile, in a veiled dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP patriarch L K Advani has said that several senior leaders of the party had made “great contribution” to yoga which is an age old “concept”.
“The hypothesis/concept of yoga is not of today. The Jan Sangh, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and senior leaders of BJP made great contribution to it,” Advani said at a yoga event in Palampur in Himachal Pradesh on Monday.
Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad said Madhav’s statement was unfortunate. “Certainly it is very unfortunate and this shows the mindset of the RSS, because Ram Madhav is the representative of the RSS in the BJP, that how they are trying to divide the society or how they try to politicise yoga.”
The Nationalist Congress Party wondered whether the vice president was excluded because of his religion.
“Is it because he is Muslim? The government and the PM must answer how a vice president was not invited. It is a serious omission,” said NCP leader Majid Memon.
Madhav had on Sunday stoked a controversy by questioning Ansari’s absence at the yoga day event but later apologised after he was criticised on the social media platform.
Ansari’s office had said he was not invited to the yoga day event in the capital after Madhav questioned his absence. Madhav had deleted the tweet about Ansari’s absence and apologised, saying he later learnt that the vice president was unwell.
The vice president’s office, however, said it was not correct. “Vice President was not sick. He was never invited for the yoga programme,” it said, adding, “the VP only attends those programmes in which the minister concerned invites him as per protocol”.
According to reports, Ansari practises yoga regularly and did yoga at his residence on Sunday.