NEW DELHI: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s Iftar party on Wednesday evening — his first since taking over the party — turned into a massive show of opposition strength. But the most-watched face there was former President Pranab Mukherjee, whose decision to attend an RSS function had rattled the Congress, his party of five decades.
A video and photographs shared by the Congress on Twitter showed the former President sitting next to Rahul Gandhi — their first meeting since the controversy broke.
There had been speculation that Mr Mukherjee would be dropped from the Congress guest list for attending the RSS function on June 7.
Many Congress leaders, including Mr Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmishtha Mukherjee, were apprehensive that his very presence at the function would hand the BJP a potent weapon against the Congress. the Congress later said Mr Mukherjee, with his address, reminded the BJP and its ideological mentor about “India’s pluralism, tolerance, secularism and inclusiveness” but a section still questioned Mr Mukherjee’s decision.
Buzz about Mr Mukherjee’s exclusion intensified because of comments by the Shiv Sena, the estranged ally of the BJP. The Sena suggested that the BJP was keeping Mr Mukherjee in reserve as insurance for coming to power after the national election next year. If the BJP fell short of numbers, Mr Mukherjee’s name might be proposed as the Prime Ministerial candidate, the Sena said.
The Congress, however, staunched speculation, saying the former President had accepted Rahul Gandhi’s invitation.
The Iftar at Delhi’s Taj Palace Hotel, organized by the Congress after two years, was attended by CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, DMK’s Kanimozhi, RJD’s Manoj Jha and Sharad Yadav. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sent Dinesh Trivedi as her representative, and Mayawati sent SC Mishra. Danish Ali, leader of Karnataka’s Janata Dal Secular, was also present. So were former President Pratibha Patil and former Vice-President Hamid Ansari. There was a buzz that Pranab Mukherjee was dropped from the Congress guest list for Rahul Gandhi’s Iftar party after he attended an RSS function.