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Political overtones in season's first Iftar

August 18, 2010 22:56 IST

The Bihar assembly election and the agreement on Nuclear liability bill between Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party had a magical political impact on an Iftar event organised by Member of Parliament and BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussein in New Delhi on Wednesday evening.

The media was surprised to see a huge presence of United Progressive Alliance leaders led by none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the season's first Iftar (evening meal when Muslims break their fast during Ramzan) party.

Earlier in day, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had stated in Parliament that the BJP and Congress had connived together on the Nuclear Liability Bill that will facilitate import of mega nuclear power plants.

"BJP aur Congress dono ek hai! (BJP and Congress are united)," said Lalu while alleging that the Congress had shown leniency, via the Central Bureau of Investigation, towards Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in return for BJP's support in passing the Nuclear Liability Bill as and when it will be tabled in Lok Sabha.

Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chauhan, who was the mediator between the Congress and BJP leaderships, told rediff.com that it's likely that the Union Cabinet will approve the draft of the bill on Thursday. The standing committee on science and technology had recently submitted its report after detailed deliberations.

And, as if to prove that Yadav's words were true, Shahnawaz's residence received scores of Congress leaders, first time ever. 

The presence of Chauhan, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Saifuddin Soz, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nationalist Congress Party's Praful Patel and Supriya Sule, and a dozen local and national Congress leaders showed that the government is elated by the agreement on Nuclear Liability Bill.

Also, in some respect, the presence of Dr Singh and other UPA leaders enhanced the stature of Shahnawaz, who has been miffed with the BJP for ignoring his talent.

During the Iftar party, one of the BJP spokesmen asked Dr Singh how he managed to keep so cool? Dr Singh nonchalantly responded with an Urdu couplet.

In last Lok Sabha election, Shahnawaz had to issue a statement that he was not joining the Congress. But, the presence of Dr Singh and other Congress leaders at his Iftar clearly showed that Shahnawaz seems to have live contacts within the Congress party.

Interestingly, top BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi did not turn up for their colleague's Iftar till late. They were attending a function in Parliament to honour Joshi as the best parliamentarian.

Jaitley returned home after attending the function to avoid the traffic jam and heavy security due to PM's presence at Shahnawaz's home.

BJP Parliamentary Party Chairman LK Adavni, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik also attended the function.

When BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu, who was also present at the Iftar, was asked to react on Lalu's allegation of the secret deal between Congress and BJP, he strongly refuted and told rediff.com, "Every time there is an issue in Parliament these leaders would go to Congress leadership and get their kickbacks. We saw their game. They were using us in the game. We used to oppose the issue on principles and they were benefiting by cutting the deal with Congress who would give them the sweet deal to break the unity amongst opposition parties. This time we went by our demand. When all our demands were met only then we supported the bill."

However, Prithviraj Chauhan told rediff.com, "The BJP had made 15 demands and we have agreed to all the demands."

Thanks to the Nuclear Liability Bill, which has been pushed by the pro-US lobby since the last many years, brought the entire range of UPA leaders to Shahnawaz's home. It will certainly raise Shahnawaz's stake back home in Bihar where the Congress, Janata Dal-United Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav are eyeing Muslim votes, desperately.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi