26/07/2017 1:25 PM IST | Updated 26/07/2017 1:31 PM IST

No Space For Nehru? Government And Opposition Leaders Spar In Parliament Over Kovind's Speech

Optics and Outrage.

Denis Balibouse / Reuters
Anand Sharma pauses during a ceremony for India's Accession to the Madrid Protocol at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva April 8, 2013.

Barely hours after Ram Nath Kovind was sworn in as India's 14th President, Congress leader Anand Sharma made it clear in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the Opposition was upset at the omission of Jawaharlal Nehru's name from Kovind's speech.

"Every country and society respects nation builders, so has been the culture in India. Like (Mahatma) Gandhi is respected and has the highest stature in the nation. Along with him was Jawaharlal Nehru who even went to jail," Sharma said.

Leading the boisterous Opposition charge, Sharma also took exception to Kovind allegedly comparing Gandhi to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Jan Sangh icon and the founder of Panchjanya.

"It is very sad and unfortunate that he did not take the name of Nehru who was a freedom fighter though he did mention his cabinet colleagues BR Ambedkar and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in his speech," leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said.

Union minister Arun Jaitley, not one to take an Opposition accusation lying down, remarked that the Zero Hour "can't run only for the benefit of the television channels". Jaitley demanded that Sharma's whole speech be expunged.

"Reference to a high constitutional authority is not allowed in the house. What is the purpose of dragging...we know the spirit of what you are saying," NDTV quoted Jaitley as saying.

Azad countered Jaitley: "We raise issues that affect people and not for television camera." Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned till 12 pm.

"We need to sculpt a robust, high growth economy, an educated, ethical and shared community, and an egalitarian society, as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and Deen Dayal Upadhyay ji. These are integral to our sense of humanism. This is the India of our dreams, an India that will provide equality of opportunities. This will be the India of the 21st century," Kovind had said during his first speech as President.

Kovind, India's second Dalit President, also made a case for diversity.

"The key to India's success is its diversity. Our diversity is the core that makes us so unique. In this land we find a mix of states and regions, religions, languages, cultures, lifestyles and much more. We are so different and yet so similar and united," he said.