NEW DELHI: Contrary to speculations about a boycott, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders will be attending President Pranab Mukherjee’s banquet on Thursday arranged for 42 heads of states and governments attending the Indo-African summit here.
“The question of a boycott does not arise. As a country and as a party, the Congress and its leaders share deep ties with Africa from its days of self-determination struggle. We’ll certainly attend the President’s banquet,’’ Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said. With rumours of a boycott of the presidential banquet doing the rounds, the Congress clarified that Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and leaders of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, would attend.
Speculation was rife after Congress leaders skipped the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the African leaders on Wednesday. Sounding a bit churlish, a senior Congress leader said the idea of a summit was mooted during the UPA tenure and that the Modi government had not acknowledged the previous government’s role.
Apparently, the Congress was outraged the government had been refusing to pay obeisance to Nehru’s legacy while nurturing relations with African nations. However, sources said the party was upset that its president was not invited to the PM’s dinner. The invitation was restricted to leaders of the Opposition. Still, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi with Manmohan Singh met Namibian President earlier in the day.
At the PM’s dinner, the outfits gifted by the host, were worn by all African leaders, except Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and South African President Jacob Zuma.