The National Democratic Alliance boycotted a function attended by President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday to observe the centenary of the Champaran Satyagraha. They were protesting the presence of “convicted” Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the dais.Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh skipped the function, where freedom fighters were honoured, at the last minute.BJP leaders defended the boycott. “Nitish, are you insulting or felicitating freedom fighters by inviting Lalu, convict in a scam, and Rahul, on bail in NH (National Herald) case?” tweeted senior State BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi. Former State BJP president Mangal Pandey said the party stayed away from the function as Lalu Prasad was invited. “…Did Mahatma Gandhi fight only to see a day when freedom fighters will be felicitated on a dais where people like Lalu Prasad are present?” he said.Mr. Lalu Prasad wondered why the NDA leaders had given their consent if they didn’t intend to turn up. “Those who did not participate in the freedom struggle and backed Nathuram Godse [Gandhiji’s assassin] are now giving lessons in boycotting,” he said. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said he had invited all political parties since it was not a party function. It was organised by the State government, he said. ‘Celebrate diversity’Earlier, addressing the function, President Pranab Mukherjee said “we must celebrate India’s diversity” to keep it united. “India, as it was during the freedom movement, is once again facing communalism and sectarianism,” the President said. Bihar government had identified 2,154 freedom fighters to be honoured on the occasion. They were each given a khadi bag, a shawl, a charkha (spinning wheel), and a souvenir.