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Sonia Gandhi’s Iftaar Democracy

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It also turned out to be an occasion to exhibit the new-found friendship with Janata Dal (United), which assumes significance in the wake of Bihar Assembly elections scheduled later this year
It was supposed to be ‘The Iftaar’ party of Delhi, which had its political significance more than the religious. The guest list was carefully selected to make it a show of strength. In the end it did convey what it was meant to be. The Iftaar party was thrown by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and considering the political scenario in the country, it was sure to offer some news value.

Just before the Monsoon Session of Parliament, the Congress attempted to invite all the Opposition parties under one umbrella as an indication that this unity will continue in the Parliament. At the same time, this was also an occasion to exhibit the new-found friendship with Janata Dal (United), which becomes important in the wake of Bihar Assembly elections scheduled later this year.

The invitations were sent to everyone from the National Conference, Trinamool Congress, DMK, AIDMK, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, JDU, RJD to Left parties.

The current NDA Government is facing flak after Lalit Modi controversy, keep aside the Smrit Irani degree row and the most recent the Vyapam scam. The Congress has been consistent in attacking the Government and it wants to extend its dominance in the upcoming parliament session. For that it needs the help and support from other political parties. So the occasion was to gauge the mood of other satraps who could choose to side with the Congress in rocking the parliament session.

Those who couldn’t attend the occasion, sent their representatives. Prem Chand Gupta who chose to sit with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh represented Lalu Yadav. Similarly Mamata Banerjee couldn’t come and Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien attended the Iftaar on her behalf. He was seated next to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

On the other side of Sonia was Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who had come all the way from Patna to attend it. The Congress played an important role in sealing the deal between Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar and the new found camaraderie was evident with Sonia talking to Nitish most of the time during the hour-long event.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi chose to sit on a different table with youngsters like Omar Abdullah and Kanimojhi. JDU leader Sharad Yadav was the odd man out on the table simply because of his age. Rahul assured that he will speak more often in Parliament now. “I have decided to speak more in the parliament,” said with a smile. Good for him.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was sitting at a distance from the two leaders and was surrounded by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and RJD leader Prem Chand Gupta. No one was discussing the Roja and the Rojedars. It was a complete political event charged up with the presence of leaders from different parties. However, it did have its misses. Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was present in town but preferred not to attend it. He didn’t even send a representative. The Left parties were also not present despite being invited.

However, one who went away with all the attraction was Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit. The moment he entered in the hall, the scribes ran towards him. When Open quizzed him about his invitation to Huriyat leaders for his Eid Milan on 21 July, his answer was- “We have invited all Indian Muslim friends including friends from Kashmir. There is nothing unusual about it,” he said.

While Sonia Gandhi tried some mutton-rice with orange juice, Nitish Kumar preferred the vegetable Pakodas and nimbu pani. Rahul was most economical as he only had soup and juice. It is unclear whether the parties, which attended the event, were eager to side with the Congress in days to come. Nevertheless, such gatherings raise the political temperature of the Capital where eyes and faces convey more than words.