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What was on the Congress' menu?

March 24, 2009 20:33 IST

The Congress lunch, catered at Rs 1,500 a plate, was expensive but yummy and certainly a far cry from the party's chalta hai kind of meals. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were among the VVIPs who gathered on the lawns of 24 Akbar Road in New Delhi on Tuesday to attend the luncheon hosted by the All India Congress Committee after the release of the party's manifesto for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The sumptuous lunch included various varieties of Benarasi chaat, the tunda kabab, mango kulfi, fresh juice and other delicacies.

While External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh stayed close to Gandhi and Dr Singh, party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi preferred to mingle with the media persons, AICC office bearers and senior ministers.

In spite of crucial allies deserting the party and the daunting prospect of fighting the polls on its own in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Congress leaders seemed to be in an upbeat mood, with Sonia Gandhi smiling frequently and the Prime Minister looking relaxed.

When puzzled media persons asked Congress leaders about the reason behind their upbeat demeanour, they were told to 'wait and watch'.

Every time Rahul tried to make his way to the delicious lunch spread, he was accosted by the media and queried on various poll-related issues. The Gandhi scion seemed cheerful and was willing to answer questions without skirting issues or avoiding any questions -- including the ones about the prospect of him becoming the PM.

He promised to meet the media 'soon', assuring journalists that his office would get in touch with them within the next few days -- a promise the assorted media took with a pinch of salt, having heard it a few times before.

Rahul even cracked a few jokes, ribbing media persons about visiting Amethi only when it was convenient for them.

Jairam Ramesh, the man in charge of the Congress' election campaign, was another much sought after leader at the luncheon. While he was making vague promises to call back journalists who wanted an interview with him, Gandhi's advisor Ahmed Patel told media persons that Ramess would host a luncheon at 15 Gurudwara Rakabganj Road (the Congress' campaign headquarters) on May 14, after the election was over.

P Chidambaram, who has been in the news recently due to the controversy surrounding the IPL's change of venue, was one of the few leaders who looked visibly tense.

Reports about Pattali Makkal Katchi leader Dr Ramdoss' decision to submit his resignation letter to Gandhi must have plagued the Home Minister, as the PMK's decision will upset the complicated caste alliances in Tamil Nadu.

But for other senior Congress leaders and AICC members, it was time to enjoy a delicious lunch. Campaign strategies, fighting anti-incumbency and opposition-bashing can wait for another day. 

Renu Mittal in New Delhi