Days after being at the centre of a row over his address at the RSS headquarters, former president Pranab Mukherjee broke bread with Rahul Gandhi as the two shared a table at an iftar party hosted by the Congress chief in New Delhi. Rahul came to the event along with Mukherjee and while the former president left after sometime, the Congress chief offered to drop him back but Mukherjee politely refused.
Mukherjee was seen talking with Rahul and exchanging pleasantries with him and several other senior Congress leaders. There was considerable disquiet in the Congress after Mukherjee accepted the invitation of the RSS to address its workers at its headquarters in Nagpur.
After much consternation, the party however, later complimented him for his speech for showing the mirror of truth that carried lessons on pluralism and secularism to the Sangh. There was even speculation whether Mukherjee would be invited but the party issued an official statement to set at rest any such reports by saying that the former president has indeed been invited.
Besides pleasantries and photo ops, the short conversation at Rahul's table revolved around Prime Minister Narendra Modi's fitness video put out by him on Twitter on Wednesday morning. Rahul described it as "ridiculous" and "bizarre" and asked Yechury to put out his own fitness video in return, as he poked fun at the prime minister.
Among the prominent personalities at the event were Mukherjee's predecessor Pratibha Patil and former prime minister Manmohan Singh, besides former vice president Hamid Ansari and a host of Opposition leaders.
While top Opposition leaders were conspicuous by their absence, middle-rung leaders of many parties were at the iftar hosted at a local luxury hotel.
This was the first iftar hosted by Rahul as Congress president.
Among other leaders included CPM's Sitaram Yechury, BSP's Satish Chandra Misra, TMC's Dinesh Trivedi and DMK's Kanimozhi.
Breakaway JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, JD(S) leader Danish Ali, JMM's Hemant Soren, NCP's DP Tripathy, RJD's Manoj Jha, AIUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal, RLD's Mehrajuddin also attended the party.
After the iftar, Rahul tweeted:
Good food, friendly faces and great conversation make for a memorable Iftar! We were honoured to have two former Presidents, Pranab Da & Smt Pratibha Patil ji join us, along with leaders from different political parties, the media, diplomats and many old & new friends. pic.twitter.com/TM0AfORXQa
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 13, 2018
Earlier, leaders of some Opposition parties met at a different location to discuss possibilities of a larger alliance. According to PTI, Kanimozhi later said, "Everyone wants alliances but Wednesday's meeting was a courtesy meeting." Also present at the iftar were a large gathering of diplomats, especially from the Islamic countries, including the Ambassador of Russia to India.
This was the first big Opposition get together since JD(S) chief HD Kumaraswamy's swearing in as the Karnataka chief minister in Bengaluru earlier in May. Top Congress leaders, including many former chief ministers and governors and ex-central ministers, were present. These included Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ambika Soni, Janardan Dwivedi, Anand Sharma, Veerappa Moily, Jairam Ramesh, Mukul Wasnik, KV Thomas, Shivraj Chouhan, PJ Kurien and former chief ministers Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Prithviraj Chavan and Shiela Dikshit. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was not present as she is currently abroad on a media check up.
Rahul's iftar party was not attended by prominent Opposition leaders like HD Deve Gowda, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
Even Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu, who was believed to have been invited, did not attend.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jun 14, 2018 08:12 AM