As per tradition, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Delhi Area, a Lt General-rank officer, escorts the Prime Minister to the dais, stands behind him as he delivers his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, and escorts him back to his seat. But on Tuesday, Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane did not stand behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he delivered his speech. After escorting Modi to the dais, Naravane returned to his seat in the audience. At the end of the speech, Naravane got up to escort Modi back from the dais.
On August 15 last year, the then GOC, Delhi Area, Lt Gen Vijay Singh, stood behind Modi during his speech, but was shifted to a side so that he was not visible in the same frame as the Prime Minister.
Sources familiar with the matter told The Indian Express that during the rehearsals this year, the Special Protection Group (SPG) objected to the Lt Gen’s presence behind the Prime Minister, pointing out that he was not visible in the same frame last year. The Army objected, stating that the GOC, Delhi Area, has been a constant presence behind the Prime Minister at all such Independence Day speeches.
The issue was discussed in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), where a decision was taken to defer to the decision of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The Army then decided that the Lt General would only escort the Prime Minister to and from the dais. Both the Army and MoD refused to comment on the matter. On reports that the protocol had been amended this year, government sources told The Indian Express that there is no protocol for the event, and it is only a practice that is followed during the ceremony.