Congress president Sonia Gandhi doesn’t need a speech to floor a political rival. She can do it with letters.
In Lok Sabha on Monday, Gandhi walked up to Biju Janata Dal floor leader Bhartruhari Mahtab with a rare letter. She showed it to him and asked if it was his father’s handwriting. The paper contained a poem praising Jawaharlal Nehru on his birthday.
“I can see the Hindi translation. But I can’t read Odiya. Can you tell me if this is your father’s handwriting?” Gandhi asked Mahtab.
Mahtab, son of former Odisha chief minister Harekrushna Mahtab, recognized the handwriting. But added, “Where did you get this? I have never heard that my father wrote such a letter.”
The personal conversation did not miss the political subtext: that Congress president is ready to reach out to arch rivals when the need arises.
The conversation between Gandhi and the BJD leader comes at a time when the Odisha-based party has decided to turn the heat on the Modi government on a number of issues. “Many Opposition leaders were surprised to see how Gandhi walked up to a rival MP who is also junior to her,” said an Opposition MP.
The poem also had a Hindi translation and an extract. When Mahtab said both leaders were perhaps jailed in Ahmednagar Fort when the poem was written, she added, “We have a full file on correspondence between Panditji (Nehru) and Dr Mahtab. I will give you a copy. It is a historic document.”