Opposition parties on Sunday questioned the "absence" of the Rajya Sabha Chairman, the Lok Sabha Speaker and union ministers at a traditional event marking the birth anniversary of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru at Parliament's Central Hall.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla was in Jaipur to address a special session for children in the Rajasthan legislative assembly to mark Children's Day, which is celebrated on Nehru's birthday, while Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu attended the 20th-anniversary celebrations of Swarna Bharat Trust in Venkatachalam in SPS Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, according to official sources.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh termed as "atrocious" the absence of the presiding officers and union ministers at the Central Hall, while Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien also hit out at the government.
The opposition parties have frequently accused the government of disregarding parliamentary traditions, though the government has dismissed such allegations.
Officials pointed out that the Jaipur event was organised by the Congress-led government in Rajasthan and the state assembly and was also attended by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and state assembly speaker CP Joshi, both from Congress, among others, officials said.
They also said that Birla has always attended such events whenever he is in Delhi, though there is no formal convention for him or for the Rajya Sabha Chairperson to mandatorily attend these functions.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Deputy Leader of Opposition Anand Sharma, Congress general secretary K C Venugopal, along with other party leaders attended the event in the Parliament hall, where the birth anniversaries of personalities whose portraits are on display are traditionally marked by top leaders by offering floral tributes.
"Extraordinary scene today in Parliament at the traditional function to mark the birth anniversary of those whose portraits adorn the Central Hall. Speaker Lok Sabha absent. Chairman Rajya Sabha absent. Not a single Minister present. Can it get more atrocious than this?!" Ramesh, who is the Congress' chief whip in Rajya Sabha, said on Twitter.
A Lok Sabha press release, however, said that the Minister of State in the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma was among the dignitaries who attended the event.
Tagging Ramesh's tweet, TMC leader O'Brien said: "Nothing surprises me anymore. This dispensation is destroying India's great institutions, including #Parliament one day at a time."
Lok Sabha Secretariat tweeted a photograph of the event at Central Hall in which Gandhi can be seen standing in front of Nehru's portrait.
"Parliamentarians paid floral tributes to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India, in the Central Hall of Parliament House, on his Birth Anniversary today," it tweeted.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to pay tributes to Nehru.
"Tributes to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Ji on his birth anniversary," he tweeted.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi remembered Nehru, saying he greatly valued truth, unity and peace, and posted his quote: "What we need is a generation of peace".
Kharge paid tributes to Nehru in a tweet, saying he was a fearless visionary who laid the foundations of a modern nation inspiring many to strive for the idea of India.
Sharma, in a tweet, said, "Saluting the memory of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru India's front-ranking freedom fighter, a hero of the masses and a global statesman on his birth anniversary.
A grateful nation will remember Nehru for his unforgettable contribution in building institutions that shaped a modern nation and establishing an inclusive constitutional democracy that guarantees fundamental rights for all Indians, he said.
Born in 1889, the Congress stalwart remains India's longest-serving prime minister.