Ma­mata scores, but Rahul fails to unite

Deccan Chronicle - - Edit - Anita Katyal is a Delhi-based jour­nal­ist Anita Katyal

The newly-ap­pointed Con­gress gen­eral sec­re­tary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, was slated to take charge last Thurs­day when she was to at­tend her first meet­ing of party of­fice-bear­ers. How­ever, she stumped ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing her se­cu­rity per­son­nel, when she de­cided to visit the Ak­bar Road party head­quar­ters a day ear­lier. She dropped in at the of­fice after ac­com­pa­ny­ing her hus­band Robert Vadra to the of­fice of the En­force­ment Direc­torate which had called him in for ques­tion­ing in con­nec­tion with the own­er­ship of prop­er­ties abroad. After mak­ing a point that she stood by her hus­band, Ms Vadra clearly wanted to send out a mes­sage that she was un­fazed by these de­vel­op­ments and that it was busi­ness as usual.

But there was chaos and con­fu­sion at the party of­fice as no one was aware of her ar­rival. Most of the of­fice bear­ers, who would have oth­er­wise lined up to wel­come her, were miss­ing. Even vet­eran Con­gress leader Moti­lal Vora, who vis­its his of­fice reg­u­larly, was not present. Nev­er­the­less, word got around and, in true Con­gress style, the place was soon swarm­ing with syco­phan­tic party work­ers.

Though Op­po­si­tion par­ties, which are com­ing to­gether to bat­tle the rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have, of late, shown a de­gree of will­ing­ness to work with Con­gress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, they re­main averse to the Nehru-Gandhi scion steal­ing the lime­light. This is ex­actly what hap­pened last week when a host of Op­po­si­tion lead­ers met in the Cap­i­tal to dis­cuss var­i­ous is­sues on which they can work to­gether. Re­al­is­ing that he is on test, the Con­gress pres­i­dent is learned to have been suf­fi­ciently def­er­en­tial to vet­eran lead­ers like Na­tion­al­ist Con­gress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Andhra Pradesh chief min­is­ter N. Chan­drababu Naidu and was equally cour­te­ous to sec­ond-rung lead­ers of other par­ties who par­tic­i­pated in the de­lib­er­a­tions.

After hear­ing ev­ery­one out, the Con­gress pres­i­dent sug­gested that the Op­po­si­tion camp high­light those is­sues on which there is una­nim­ity among them while leav­ing out con­tentious sub­jects. It was, there­fore, de­cided that jobs cri­sis, agrar­ian dis­tress and de­struc­tion of in­sti­tu­tions by the Modi gov­ern­ment would be ar­eas fo­cussed upon. A sug­ges­tion by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that they should also high­light the is­sue of com­mu­nal­ism was brushed aside. Ad­dress­ing the me­dia later, Mr Gandhi even urged Mr Pawar to speak about farm cri­sis, but he de­clined. Nev­er­the­less, both Mr Pawar and Mr Naidu felt the need to talk to the press the next day about the same meet­ing. Ei­ther they did not want Mr Gandhi to emerge as the de­fault leader of this group­ing or they felt he was un­able to put across his views with suf­fi­cient clar­ity.

Hav­ing suc­ceeded in se­cur­ing sup­port of all re­gional par­ties dur­ing her brief stand­off with the Cen­tre, West Ben­gal chief min­is­ter and Tri­na­mul Con­gress chief Ma­mata Ban­er­jee glee­fully an­nounced at the end of her three­day dharna that the par­ties will now take their bat­tle to Delhi. The en­tire Op­po­si­tion bloc is plan­ning to sit on a sim­i­lar dharna in the cap­i­tal in the com­ing week. Ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary re­ports, Con­gress chief min­is­ters Amarinder Singh, Ka­mal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Bhu­pesh Baghel are ex­pected to join. But there has been some de­bate about the for­mat of this protest. Since she has de­vel­oped a warm rap­port with Delhi Chief Min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal, the Tri­na­mul chief is keen that he join the sit-in. But Con­gress lead­ers are not happy to be seen in his com­pany. As a way out, it is be­ing sug­gested that there should be a re­lay protest and that lead­ers take turns to sit on dharna. This will en­sure full at­ten­dance and also avert any awk­ward sit­u­a­tion.

Adin­ner hosted by Na­tion­al­ist Con­gress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar last week at his res­i­dence turned out to be an oc­ca­sion to show that the vet­eran leader has the abil­ity to make friends across the po­lit­i­cal di­vide The guest list in­cluded BJP min­is­ters Prakash Javadekar, Nitin Gad­kari and Kiren Ri­jiju, Left lead­ers Si­taram Yechury and D. Raja, Shiv Sena MP San­jay Raut, Sa­ma­jwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Ya­dav, a large con­tin­gent of Tri­na­mul MPs, se­nior Con­gress leader Ahmed Pa­tel and Bhupin­der Singh Hooda and DMK's Kan­i­mozhi. Mr Pawar's daugh­ter and Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule, who played the per­fect host­ess, took care to in­vite her friends from Gen Next, in­clud­ing for­mer Con­gress min­is­ters R.P.N. Singh and Jitin Prasada. From all ac­counts, it was a pleas­ant evening with good mu­sic, de­li­cious food and easy con­ver­sa­tion. But after en­joy­ing Mr Pawar's gen­er­ous hospi­tal­ity, all the guests were left ask­ing one ques­tion: What was the pur­pose of this din­ner? The over­whelm­ing view is that per­haps Mr Pawar is reach­ing out to friends and op­po­nents in a bid to po­si­tion him­self as a prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date.

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