Row deepens over Ansari’s absence on Yoga Day

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NEW DELHI: The row over BJP general secretary Ram Madhav questioning Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s absence at the Yoga Day celebrations escalated on Monday, with Congress accusing the ruling party of playing “divisive” politics and the latter clarifying he was not invited because of protocol issues.

Minister of state for AYUSH Shripad Naik, whose ministry organised the International Day of Yoga event at Rajpath on Sunday, said when Prime Minister is the chief guest at a programme, the President or Vice-President cannot be invited as per protocol as the two are above the PM in order of precedence.

“When the Prime Minister is chief guest, then inviting the Vice-President is not proper. That’s why we did not send the invite to him. President and Vice President are above the Prime Minister as per order of precedence and we cannot invite them accordingly,” he said.

Seeking to downplay the controversy, Naik said Madhav has withdrawn his statement and added it may have happened by mistake.

“It may have happened by mistake. It should have been avoided, but we agreed to our mistake,” he said.

In the wake of government’s clarification on the issue, the Vice President’s Office said the matter is closed for them as the Minister’s statement “seems logical”.

“For us that’s the end of the matter,” it said. However, Congress was unsatisfied by the government’s clarification and 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 RPN Singh told reporters.

Suggesting that the Narendra Modi government should not claim undue credit over yoga, Singh also emphasised that the spiritual and physical exercise form has been practised in India from the time immemorial.

Asked about the controversy, Madhav said, “As far as the tweet is concerned, it was withdrawn and the matter is closed there and ends there.”

He said there is no further discussion on the issue from his side, but added, “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.”

Madhav had on Sunday stoked a controversy by questioning Ansari’s absence at the Yoga Day event in the capital but later apologised after he was criticised on the social media platform.

Vice-President Hamid 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 Vice President only attends those programmes in which the Minister concerned invites him as per protocol”.

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