The last rites of Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and senior party member Mahendra Karma, killed in a Naxal ambush on Saturday, were performed with state honours in their respective villages of Raigarh and Dantewada on Monday.
While Chief Minister Raman Singh, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, party treasurer Motilal Vora and Chhattisgarh incharge and general secretary B K Hariprasad were present for the last rites of Patel and his son Dinesh, it was not clear who stood by the Karma family in their moment of grief.
Back at 24 Akbar Road, the AICC headquarters here, a shell-shocked Congress leadership -- Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Vohra, Ahmed Patel, Janardhan Dwivedi and Ambika Sonia and its senior ministers A K Antony, Salman Khurshid, Veerappa Moily and Jairam Ramesh -- attended a prayer meet to mourn the death of all the 27 people killed in the attack.
Apart from the nirguni bhajans and two emblematic hymns rendered by a group from the Sahitya Kala Parishad and Dwivedi’s comment that there was “both sorrow and anger”, no words were uttered at the meet.
There were no condolence messages from the Congress president and other leaders. Neither was there any fond recollection of the victims’ contributions to the Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh.
The deafening silence was only broken by murmurs and a few remarks by middle-rung leaders, who claimed the “security could be breached (by the Naxals) as adequate cover was not provided”. But the top brass, already groping for answers to how and why the incident occurred, refrained from commenting or raising any uncomfortable questions.
Asked whether the Congress would demand for the President’s rule in Chhattisgarh, Vohra, who traces his political roots to Chhattisgarh, said “it is for the Union Home Minister to evaluate the situation”.
Meanwhile, a curious blame game is on in the Congress. Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and wheelchair-bound leader Ajit Jogi’s departure from the Parivartan Yatra at Darbha Ghat in Jiram Valley just hours before the Naxal attack, is being interpreted in different ways. There was also talk of how the entire state security apparatus was deployed to protect Raman, thus leaving the Congress leaders vulnerable deep inside the Naxal territory.
But they were only whispers as both the Congress and BJP leaderships have decided to call the ambush an “attack on democracy” that needs to be fought unitedly. For once, Sonia’s remarks on Saturday night and Narendra Modi’s tweets on Monday morning read almost the same.