Top Opposition leaders skip Rahul’s first iftaar as Congress president

Rahul Gandhi wearing a skull cap — although fleetingly — sharing the dinner table with former President Pranab Mukherjee, who only last week shared the stage with the RSS at its Nagpur headquarters, and even taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fitness video, calling it “bizarre”. With most top Opposition leaders —Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, among others — giving Rahul’s first iftaar as Congress president a miss, these were the images that stood out Wednesday.

The Samajwadi Party was unrepresented at the event. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, too, was not present —she is yet to return from abroad. The toast of the event was Mukherjee, who came face to face with Rahul for the first time at a public event since his visit to the RSS headquarters. Also at the table was Mukherjee’s predecessor at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Pratibha Patil.

The absence of top leaders of opposition parties — barring CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and JMM’s Hemant Soren— was, however, noted. Comparisons were immediately made with the last Congress iftaar hosted by Sonia Gandhi in 2015. Sitting next to Rahul then was Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who joined hands with the BJP last year.

The CPI(M) had skipped it, apparently uncomfortable with the idea of sharing a table with a Trinamool Congress leader. Politburo member Mohammed Salim was to attend, but the party had a change of ...

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