It was the first time since independence that the Congress' president has not been assigned a seat in the front row.
New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was at Delhi's Rajpath to attend the 69th Republic Day parade, was made to sit in the sixth row, closer to the public than to union ministers and senior BJP leaders.
According to sources in the Congress, it was the first time since independence that the Congress' chief has not been assigned a seat in the front row.
Rahul was seen in the sixth row with Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha. Security men of the 47-year-old Congress president crowded next to him, appearing to block the view of people sitting in the back.
However, BJP national president Amit Shah was seen in the front row with other senior leaders including party veteran LK Advani.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala posted what he called a telling image of "petty politics" by the Government. "The arrogant rulers deliberately seated Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the fourth row, then sixth row, on Republic Day, discarding all convention. For us celebrating the Republic is above all," Surjewala tweeted.
Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia, who was the Congress president for 19 years, was always seated in the front row.
The Congress, furious, has alleged breach of protocol and "deliberate humiliation" of Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party president in December, that too in front of world leaders.
10 heads of state from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) were the chief guests at the 69th Republic Day parade. They were seated on a 100-foot wide stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress also alleged that the BJP-led Union government ensured that no visiting foreign dignitary met Opposition parties, a convention followed for years.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi has written an open letter to people on the eve of Republic day. Rahul has made an appeal to the countrymen to defend the Constitution and its treasured commitment to justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. The letter was posted on social media.
The Congress president said all must remember the Indian Constitution and the commitment it made to citizens. “On this Republic day, let us renew our lifelong pledge to protect our Constitution, the keystone of our cherished Republic, and to defend it as one people, whenever it is endangered,” he said.
Rahul, while extending greetings to fellow citizens, said as all celebrate the beloved nation, “let us also remember the Indian constitution and the commitment we made to all our citizens: JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY”.
“We are citizens of a democratic republic and our strength is built upon a diversity of religion, cultures, ideas and opinions. No matter our background, we are proud to share a common bond: our belonging to this beautiful nation,” he said.