New Delhi: After nearly a decade, Rashtrapati Bhavan will not host an iftar party this year with President Ram Nath Kovind stating that there should no religious observance at taxpayer’s expense at the public building.
“After the President took over the office, he decided there would be no religious celebrations or observances in a public building such as Rashtrapati Bhavan on taxpayer expense. This is in keeping with the principles of a secular state and applies to all religious occasions, irrespective of religion,” said Ashok Malik, Press Secretary to the president.
Rashtrapati Bhavan’s iftar saw a visible change since 2014 when Narendra Modi became the PM. He skipped the iftar four times. Mukherjee had hosted the last iftar on 23 June and it generated a controversy because no BJP minister attended it. But, in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the government was represented at iftar by one or the other Union minister, such as Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley or Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
After Kalam demitted office, Iftar was resumed when Pratibha Patil succeeded him. Pranab Mukherjee, her successor, also continued the tradition till 2017.
The news comes after last year’s decision when President Trump had broken the White House Iftar party tradition by not hosting one.
White House officials reportedly spend months planning the event, which has been held every year under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.
Earlier, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had also refused to host an Iftar party at its Nagpur office.
CPI(M) politburo member Mohammad Salim, who has attended many iftars at Rashtrapati Bhavan, termed the development a “political” matter. “This certainly has a political overtone. Earlier, the BJP — because of its Sangh influence — used to campaign against hosting of iftar parties, but when Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji became Prime Minister, some ministers and ministries started hosting iftar parties.” The iftars at Rashtrapati Bhavan used to see the PM, ministers, Congress, Left and BJP leaders in attendance.