[It is tradition for the last many many years for the president of India to host Iftar during the month of Ramadan. (File photo)]
New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday hosted an Iftar party that saw leaders from several political parties in attendance at Rashtrapati Bhavan here, but where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conspicuous by his absence.
Modi had a pre-scheduled meeting with chief ministers of the northeastern states at 7 p.m. and hence did not come to the Iftar.
However, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were present.
Others who attended the Iftar included vice president Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien and several diplomats were among the attendees.
In his message, the President said Ramadan was a month of blessings and forgiveness which reminds people of their duty towards the poor and less privileged as well as the need for charity and generosity towards all.
"Let us during this holy month pledge to spread love, affection and mutual trust among all. May the spirit of Ramadan instill in each one of us a sense of unity and pride in the composite culture of India," he said.
Earlier in the day the BJP had said Narendra Modi won't attend the Iftar party to be hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday evening due to other "important programmes"..
The Congress questioned the decision, saying it reflected the thinking of the prime minister.
"Modi has a meeting with chief ministers of northeastern states on Wednesday (evening). He will chair a meeting with the chief ministers to discuss major developmental projects. He will also launch the 'Skill India' campaign in the evening," BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said.
Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal said only Modi could tell the reasons for not going to the Iftar hosted by the president but the party was not surprised.
"Iftar party at the president's residence is like a national event. However, the prime minister has chosen not to attend it. This reflects how he thinks," Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal said.
He said Modi talks of 'sabka saath, sabka vikas' (With all, growth of all) and it should reflect in all his actions.