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Is the ‘party’ over for Lutyen’s Delhi’s grand Iftar events?

india Updated: Jul 07, 2016 14:19 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji

Vice-president Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar at an iftar party hosted by JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav at his resident at Tughlak Road in Delhi.(Arun Sharma /HT Photo)

New Delhi: Not so long ago, as the holy month of Ramzan added splashes of colour in the old corners of the national capital, the political circle in Lutyen’s Delhi also looked forward to a few Iftar. The evening feast after breaking the fast, for them, was not just about food but also a power show involving who’s who of Indian politics.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s Iftar party was one such occasion. During the UPA days, when her party was in command, the Iftar hosted at the lawns of the party office on 24, Akbar Road drew crowd from all walks of political life. Getting invited was not enough. There were undercurrents of tension to grab a plump seat, as close as possible to either Sonia or Rahul Gandhi or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

For the last few years, though, Gandhi has stopped throwing such parties. This time, too, she didn’t throw an Iftar, as a large part of the country was reeling under a drought-like situation.

As for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, its limited Iftar party culture has taken a further hit of late.

BJP leader Shanawaz Hussain was known for his grand Iftar parties. But ever since his party came to power, Hussain’s Iftar has quietly shifted to native Bihar from his official bungalow in Delhi.

Lok Jan Shakti Party chief and union minister Ramvilas Paswan is another leader who shifted his Iftar venue from the national capital to his political base. Paswan, with friends across parties, threw Iftar parties that were a big draw. Top leaders from the Congress as well as the BJP mingled freely in Paswan’s Iftar, making it one of the top-rated events in Lutyen’s zone.

Not all Iftar flavour is smothered.

This year, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal threw an Iftar that saw more than 1,000 people attending it. Congress leader Shehzad Poonawala threw his Iftar in Old Delhi that had senior party colleagues like Digvijaya Singh and Jagdish Tytler as guests.

The Congress also organized a mega Iftar in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh which has nearly 20% Muslim population. The Pradesh Congress Committee organised an event outside Lucknow and invited more than 5,000 people for the Iftar.

The BJP, however, was not in a hurry to match the Congress’ enthusiasm. As it is, Prime Minister Narendra Modi never hosts or attends an Iftar. This year, at the feast organized by President Pranab Mukherjee, Modi and many BJP leders were conspicuous by their absence.