NEW DELHI: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s Iftar party, hosted after a gap of three years, saw old ally RJD chief Lalu Prasad and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav in attendance. Her son Rahul Gandhi played host to the diplomats, including Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basist.
As for former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he too was present although a bit overshadowed. The Iftaar saw Sonia’s re-assertion of her ability to swing alliances and the Congress’ political mores, as she sat flanked by Lalu, Sharad and Tariq Anwar of the NCP.
Singh was on a separate table with former Election commissioner S Y Quraishi and cine star Sharmila Tagore among others. Sonia did try to seek Manmohan out and bring him to her table, but the former Prime Minister was already seated by then in his designated place.
The party’s vice-president, meanwhile, sat next Pakistan envoy Abdul Basist and other diplomats along with the party’s deputy leader in the upper house Anand Sharma. This is only the second big Iftaar hosted this season after the one by President Pranab Mukherjee last week, which got talked about because of the sparse representation from the ruling side. Only Home Minister Rajnath Singh dropped by and Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah attended full time. Heptullah too hosted a low-key Iftaar, calling only a few friends from the media.
Sonia who did not hold the feast during the last three years because of natural disaster or tragedy in the country, hosted this Iftaar at Ashoka Hotel with almost all big leaders of her party, academicians, diplomats, religious leaders and journalists. Those in attendance included former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, Ambika Soni, JD(U)’s Prem Chand Gupta, Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, Ajay Maken, Motilal Vora, Digvijay Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma, Shakeel Ahmed, Rajeev Shukla, Kumari Selja, Mohsina Kidwai, Karan Singh, Congress legislature party chief in Delhi Assembly Haroon Yusuf, Delhi Pollution Control Committee president Arvinder Singh Lovely, Raj Babbar, Mohammed Azaharuddin and Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad was also present. But not his counterpart in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. Also absent were Jyotiraditya Scindia and Captain Amarinder Singh.