Sunday, Nov 16, 2003
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By K.V. Prasad
Ms. Gandhi, who preferred not to host the `Iftar' last year following the communal violence in Gujarat, made it a point to mingle with the guests from various walks of lives, including mediapersons.
The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and his predecessor, Mayawati, were missing but both had informed Ms. Gandhi of their inability to attend the function due to preoccupation with the assembly byelections in the State. There was no word why the Nationalist Congress Party chief, Sharad Pawar, did not respond to the invitation.
While the marxist leaders were away at Kolkata for a party meeting, the Opposition was represented by the former Union Ministers, Ram Vilas Paswan, Ajit Singh, and Omar Abdullah, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, and the former Prime Ministers, V.P. Singh and I.K. Gujral. The Samajwadi Party, MP, Amar Singh, Bahujan Samaj Party MP, Raashid Alvi, the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Indian Union Muslim League general secretary, E. Ahamed, were among others.
Prominent among the members of the diplomatic corps was the High Commissioner of Pakistan, Aziz Ahmed Khan.
The ease with which Ms. Gandhi went around making polite enquires also found reflection in her dexterous handling of the questions from presspersons. Expressing confidence over the outcome of the coming Assembly elections, she said that even as per surveys, the Congress was bound to retain power in the State of Delhi and Rajasthan.
In Madhya Pradesh where the party has greater stakes, Ms. Gandhi said the Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, was confident that the party would win and she was with him. She said that even in 1998, while pre-poll surveys predicted defeat for the Congress, the Chief Minister had maintained that the party would retain power, which proved right. However, she refused to speculate whether the party would seek snap polls in the event of the Congress winning the Assembly elections in all the four north Indian States. ``Let us wait for the results,'' she said.
Asked whether a positive result for the Congress would mean defeat of the BJP's agenda, she felt that it would appear so but hastened to add that it was better to be cautious till the results were out.
On the Congress-BSP ties, she pushed it into the realm of future. As for an understanding with the Left parties in Andhra Pradesh, she said the situation was ``still very fluid'' and reiterated the party's Shimla call to all secular parties to join hands and defeat the BJP.
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