Rahul’s UK visit lays bare rift in Cong’s overseas outfit

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LONDON: Rahul Gandhi’s first trip to the United Kingdom as Congress president may have drawn crowds but it has also exposed cracks within the Indian Overseas Congress-UK (IOC-UK).
There appear to be two groups claiming to be the IOC-UK — an old committee and a new guard.
Sunil Chopra claims he has been the general secretary of IOC-UK for the past eight years but was not consulted about Gandhi’s trip nor invited to any of the events. “We were not informed officially that Rahul Gandhi was coming to the UK. We only came to know from different sources that he is here,” Chopra said.
Freedom fighter Balwant Kapoor, once personal assistant to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, who was in Nehru’s cabinet, was president of the group from 1992 until he died in 2009 when D L Kahlan took over as president. “Kahlan was general secretary when Kapoor became president. A new committee was appointed and I was made general secretary around 2010,” Chopra said.
“I was not asked to help with Rahul Gandhi’s trip or any of the organisation,” Chopra said. “I just got an invite through local friends to the parliament event and they only invited me to the Ramada Hotel after one of my friends complained to them. … Even the Ramada Hotel invite was just a forwarded WhatsApp message. It was insulting. None of us went.”
Veteran Congress leader Karan Singh, 87, had been looking after the affairs of the IOC UK, according to Chopra. But he said of late they had struggled to maintain contact with “the high command” of the party.
Kamal Dhaliwal, president of the IOCUK which did organise Gandhi’s trip, said: “There are not two IOCs in the UK. There is only one recognised by the Indian National Congress in Delhi. All the former leaders were invited to the Ramada function. I personally invited Sunil Chopra. Karan Singh stepped down two years ago and he was replaced by Sam Pitroda a year ago. I became president in March 2017… They should have contacted us before Rahul came, not after, if they wanted to help organise the event.”