New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s first-ever Iftar party, seen as a platform for opposition unity, saw representatives from most of the key parties attend, though some of the top leaders gave it a miss.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Yadav, chose not to attend but sent their representatives instead.
The event was significant not just because it was projected as an outreach to the Muslim community by the party but also because it was the first such formal opposition meet being hosted by Gandhi.
The parties that attended the event also included the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), besides the Left parties.
“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," Gandhi tweeted soon after the event.
The Iftar party, held on Wednesday at the Durbar Hall of Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, was attended by former presidents Pranab Mukherjee, who recently addressed a meeting of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in Nagpur, and Pratibha Patil. Former vice president Hamid Ansari also attended the meet along with several foreign diplomats and public personalities.
The hall was neatly divided into five rows of tables for guests, with a few being reserved for top dignitaries and diplomats. Soon after Gandhi’s arrival at his table, a guest offered him the traditional white skull cap, which he wore briefly.
The seating of guests was interesting. There were two key tables where most of the opposition leaders sat. One was Gandhi’s table, which included Mukherjee, Ansari, Patil, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, DMK leader Kanimozhi and TMC lawmaker Dinesh Trivedi.
Another table in a different row had former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Sharad Yadav, Satish Chandra Mishra of the BSP, Danish Ali of the JD(S), Manoj Jha of RJD, and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, among others.
The spread included the customary dates and fruit juices. The dinner delicacies included a long list of non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes.
This national-level iftar was being hosted by the Congress almost two years after the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi hosted it in 2015.