Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s first Iftar party since he took over the charge of the century-old party in December 2017 has evoked a mixed response. Touted as a show of strength of the Opposition unity to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), top leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav were conspicuous with their absence.
The biggest takeaway from the Iftar, hosted at a luxury hotel, was former President Pranab Mukherjee breaking bread with Congress president Rahul Gandhi. A short conversation at Gandhi’s table revolved around Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fitness video put out by him on Twitter last morning. Gandhi described it as “ridiculous” and “bizarre” and asked CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury to release his own fitness video in return, as he poked fun at the Prime Minister.
Notably, this was the first Iftar party hosted by a Congress president in two years as UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was not able to host the dinner feast due to illness. The event was also the first time that Rahul and Pranab came face to face after the latter attended an event at the Nagpur headquarters of thge Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh earlier this month. The Congress leadership was peeved with the former President’s decision to attend an event hosted by an organisation that the party has been extremely critical of.
Who was present, who was not?
Among the prominent personalities present at the event were ex-Presidents Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil, former Vice President Hamid Ansari and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, most of the top opposition leaders did not attend the Iftar party. Apart from CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, other opposition parties were represented by middle-rung leaders like BSP’s Satish Chandra Misra, TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi and DMK’s Kanimozhi, disgruntled JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, JD(S) leader Danish Ali, JMM’s Hemant Soren, NCP’s DP Tripathy, RJD’s Manoj Jha and AIUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav was not present since he was hosting an ftaari in Patna. Also missing were National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and RLD’S Ajit Singh.
“Good food, friendly faces and great conversation make for a memorable Iftar! We were honoured to have two former Presidents, Pranab Da and Smt Pratibha Patil ji join us, along with leaders from different political parties, the media, diplomats and many old and new friends,” Gandhi said on Twitter after the Iftar.
Sonia Gandhi’s 2015 Iftar vs Rahul Gandhi’s 2018 Iftar
There was an immediate comparison made with the last Congress Iftar hosted by Sonia Gandhi in 2015. Then Bihar CM Nitish Kumar was seen sitting next to Rahul Gandhi. The CPI(M) had skipped it as it reportedly wanted to avoid sharing same much space with Trinamool Congress leader. On Wednesday, Yechury shared a table with TMC leader and former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi. Both Abdullah and Pawar were present at the 2015 Iftaar.