Freedom of speech, Not for the President

Ram Nath Kovind the 14th President of India was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice of India J S Kehar in an impressive ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament. The controversy began then and there when the large contingent of BJP MPs raised slogans of 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' when Kovind was administered the oath.

The action invited criticism as experts believe that patronising a particular religion is against the dignity and secularity of the Parliament. They believe that one should not be raising such slogans while a President is assuming a constitutional office. (

After taking his oath he delivered his maiden speech in the Central Hall of the Parliament and this was perhaps the first time in living memory that an incoming president chose to make his inaugural speech immediately after taking the oath of office. (

His inaugural speech was well-crafted and struck all the right notes, mentioning plurality and togetherness of the nation, outlining his vision for India as a world leader in the 21st Century, and also reminiscing his own journey from humble origins in a small village in Uttar Pradesh to the Rashtrapati Bhavan (

He indicated that he won't have time for virtue-signaling and won't disown his BJP/RSS background. At the same time, while pitching for an inclusive India, stressing on justice, liberty, equality and fraternity and diversity the President has implied that he will not shy away from upholding the Constitution. (

He mentioned the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle and later the role Sardar Patel played for the integration of the nation. He also included in his speech the economic and social contribution made by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

The concluding paragraph of President Kovind's speech was perhaps the most significant, where he spoke of Mahatma Gandhi and Deen Dayal Upadhyay in the same vein. "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 Upadhyayji. These are integral to our sense of humanism," he said. (

The speech has created a lot of controversies, resulting in a war of words between BJP and Congress as the newly elected President didn't mention Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free in his speech.

Former President Pratibha Patil, didn't find a mention either. Neither did KR Narayanan, the first Dalit to be elected President of India (

A conscious omission of Nehru's name and the inclusion of Patel and Ambedkar as national icons is being seen to be in sync with the thought process of the current BJP dispensation under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. (

War over the speech

The Congress came down heavily upon Kovind for not mentioning Nehru's name in his speech and said he should rise above the party politics. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said President Kovind disrespected the freedom fighters by not mentioning Nehru's name in his speech. He went to say that the President should remember that he is not a BJP candidate anymore rather he is a candidate of India. Azad added that the President has to protect the Constitution of India and rise above and think beyond party politics. (

Congress leader Anand Sharma also criticised the speech and added that Kovind has disrespected history by equating father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi with Deen Dayal Upadhyay. (

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit back at the Congress for criticising President Ram Nath Kovind's speech for not mentioning former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru`s name and urged for not politicising every issue. (

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