No central minister showed up for President Pranab Mukherjee’s Iftar at Rashtrapati Bhavan Friday — this was the last he was hosting there before the end of his term next month.
“There was not a single minister, not a single government representative and not a single BJP leader. In all these years, I have never been to an Iftar hosted by the President where there has been no representative of the Government of India,” CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury told The Indian Express.
SP Rajya Sabha MP Javed Ali Khan, among those invited, said: “I could not spot a single minister at the Iftar hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee. In the past, I have attended three Iftars at Rashtrapati Bhavan and I remember seeing ministers like Rajnath Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Mahesh Sharma and Vijay Goel. This time, no one was there.”
Rashtrapati Bhavan had made seating arrangements with ministers in mind — Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar was to share a table with Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. Rashtrapati Bhavan invites all members of the Union Council of Ministers to the Iftar.
Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who had attended the event last year, too was missing. National Commission for Minorities chairman Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi was there but he steered clear of guests like Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Azad and Yechury.
Asked about the no-show, Naqvi told The Indian Express: “I was about to go but exactly at that time, a CCPA meeting was convened. It was an urgent meeting that could not be missed. The Prime Minister, as you know, is travelling tomorrow. The meeting started at 6.30 pm and continued till 7.30-8 pm. Did nobody turn up? All ministers are usually invited.”
Among those who did attend the Iftar were former CEC S Y Quraishi, former Rajya Sabha MP Mohsina Kidwai, India Islamic Cultural Centre chief Sirajuddin Qureshi and theatre actor Aamir Raza Husain. Gandhi, who was at one of end of a semi-circle where the President was to greet guests, gave security personnel and Rashtrapati Bhavan staff some anxious moments when she declined to move ahead. “I am here now, do not embarrass me,” she said. Eventually, she joined Ansari, Yechury and others at the head of the formation.