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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Not part of debate, but Sonia leads her party from the front

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 05, 2012
First Published: 00:39 IST(5/12/2012) | Last Updated: 00:49 IST(5/12/2012)

Congress president Sonia Gandhi may have opted out from participating in the high-voltage debate on the FDI in multi-brand retail on Tuesday in Lok Sabha.

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She, however, played a pro-active role to lead the party during the deliberations.

Gandhi, sitting in front row, was seen giving frequent instructions to Leader of the House Sushil Kumar Shinde and parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath.

She even provided several talking points to Union minister Kapil Sibal who was the first speaker from the treasury bench for the debate.

When Sibal decided to take on the estranged allies Trinamool Congress pointing out how potato farmers have benefited from Pepsico, Gandhi asked him to mention the details of Pepsi's procurement.

Later, when Sibal said that 40% of his voters in Delhi's Chandni Chowk constituency don't even own cars but only two-wheelers, Gandhi was heard saying that these people too, may not be going to Walmart stores in the outskirts of the city and procure things locally. Sibal quickly took the cue and repeated the lines.

At times, Gandhi directed Shinde and Nath to refute opposition's contentions. But during the heated disruptions, she also led the party's floor managers to calm down her party colleagues sitting in the rear benches.

Rahul Gandhi also sat through the debate and keenly followed what other speakers had to say. But it was the senior Gandhi who tried to help in running the House smoothly.

At one point of time, she even urged Trinamool's key speaker Saugata Roy to sit down as Speaker Meira Kumar was speaking.

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, however, didn't miss an opportunity to attack Gandhi over her recent speech at a Congress rally in Capital's Ramlila Maidan.

Swaraj quoted Gandhi as saying no other government achieved such high growth in such short time and quipped that she is undermining the achievements of her own grandfather-in-law (Jawaharlal Nehru), mother-in-law (Indira Gandhi) and husband (Rajiv Gandhi)'s governments.

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