Is Opposition unity against BJP strengthening day by day? Rahul’s iftar party sends mixed signals
New Delhi, June 14: On Wednesday evening, Congress president Rahul Gandhi hosted his first iftar party as the party chief at Delhi's Taj Palace Hotel. The Congress hosted its last iftar party in 2015 during the presidentship of Sonia Gandhi. Iftar or fatoor is the customary evening meal with which Muslim devotees around the world break their fast daily during the holy month of Ramzan.
Now, since the gala event was hosted by the Congress, the politics behind the iftar party could not be missed so easily. Top leaders from various opposition parties broke bread together with Rahul and his Congress colleagues at the party.
But many well-known faces from the "anti-BJP" brigade remained conspicuous by their absence in the political event. The last time the Opposition came out together in full force against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was during the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy in May.
The photographs of politicians--Mamata Banerjee, Sonia, Rahul, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal, HD Deve Gowda, Chandrababu Naidu, Akhilesh Yadav and Sitaram Yechury to name a few--standing together, smiling and holding hands sent the BJP into a tizzy.
The top leaders from various opposition parties have been stressing on the need to fight the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections scheduled in April/May next year together to defeat the "divisive and communal politics" of the BJP. In spite of a couple of meetings between the opposition leaders in the last few months, a formal declaration regarding the "Mahagathbandhan" or coalition of opposition parties is yet to be sealed.
In Rahul's iftar party, the Congress once again attempted to bring together leaders of various opposition parties together. There were a few notable faces who attended the party and enjoyed food and conversation with each other.
But absence of leaders like Akhilesh and Kejriwal in the party did once again raise questions about the feasibility of an alliance of various parties having their individual interests and many of which shared pretty hostile relationship in the past. Moreover, several parties sent only their second-rung leaders as representatives to attend Rahul's get together.
Some top opposition leaders who attended the party were--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," stated a report by NDTV.
The "main attraction" of the party was none other than former President Pranab Mukherjee who was at the receiving end of the Congress and other opposition parties after he visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra a few days ago.
In spite of all the criticism heaped on Mukherjee, Rahul decided to invite the former Congress leader to his party and the 82-old-year veteran graced the occasion too. Along with Mukherjee, former President Pratibha Patil and former Vice-President Hamid Ansari too attended the iftar party.
The videos from the party show all the guests enjoying a fun-filled evening. Tweeting about the gathering, Rahul wrote, "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."
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
Only time will tell how much of "good food, friendly faces and great conversation" will help the Opposition to further strengthen its unity against the might of the BJP.